FEMA allocates $1.7M for regional airport rehabilitation projects already underway
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded more than $1.7 million for the repair of regional airports throughout the island.
The funds are destined for permanent repairs in the airports of Aguadilla, Ceiba, Culebra, Mayagüez and San Juan (Isla Grande), the federal agency confirmed.
The Puerto Rico Ports Authority has reported that passenger split among all regional airports — including those in Ponce and Humacao — exceeded 1.2 million travelers between 2018 and 2019, prior to the start of the flight restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In comparison, from 2020 to 2021, more than 863,000 visitors have been registered as using he facilities.
“This network is an essential part of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry and is our first impression for many travelers visiting the island, for example, from Aguadilla International Airport,” said Puerto Rico Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, José G. Baquero.
“That’s why it’s important that these facilities are in peak condition and to be more competitive as a tourist destination,” the former Ports Authority executive director added.
The agency allocated close to $164,00 to the Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla for security work directed toward compliance with Federal Aviation Administration Agency regulations, and close to $430,900 for the architectural and engineering studies that precede construction and remodeling works.
Located on the former facilities of the US Airforce’s Ramey Airport, the regional airport of Aguadilla provides direct weekly flights in both directions to the Dominican Republic and the stateside cities of Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Newark, and Philadelphia. It is the regional airport with most passenger traffic, almost 130,000 people between 2020 and 2021, and has approximately 400 employees, agency officials confirmed.
“Aguadilla’s Rafael Hernández International Airport is the second largest airport facility on the island in terms of passengers, with the longest runway in the Caribbean,” said José A. Riollano, director of the Ports Authority’s Aviation Bureau and airport manager.
“FEMA funds allocated to this airport are extremely important for the safety of the thousands of passengers who use it and the hundreds of people who work here,” Riollano said.
Meanwhile, obligations approved for architectural and engineering studies at other regional airports include more than $401,000 for the Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport in Isla Grande, nearly $132,000 for the José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba, and more than $88,000 for the Fernando Ribas Dominicci Regional Airport in Culebra.
Another $147,000 was approved for the Eugenio María de Hostos Airport in Mayagüez for works on the security of the perimeter that protect this important installation.
Regional airports provide a network of air access that supports the local tourism industry between Mayagüez, Aguadilla, San Juan and the east coast of the island, including the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, transportation officials said.