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FEMA awards $54M to repair Puerto Rico regional airports, shipping docks

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the allocation of more than $54 million in public assistance funds to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority for repairs and hazard mitigation at several transportation facilities across the island.

The obligation will allow for repairs to be conducted at the Puerto Nuevo Seaport, Yabucoa Harbor, Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla and the José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba.

The funding includes more than $4.6 million to cover hazard mitigation works at each site for resiliency to permanent work to prevent similar damage from future events.

To date, FEMA has awarded the Puerto Rico Ports Authority nearly $174 million for permanent work projects at various air and sea transportation facilities throughout Puerto Rico, the agency confirmed.

“It’s very important for Puerto Rico to maintain its port infrastructure and airports in optimum conditions, given that our economy relies heavily on maritime and air transportation,” Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José Baquero said. “These obligations will help strengthen important facilities that support our merchandise trade economy and our public safety, by scrutinizing incoming containers.”

The Puerto Nuevo Pier is one of the “busiest on the island,” with more than 30,000 containers or nearly 300,000 tons of merchandise imported every month by local and U.S.-based shipping companies.

In the case of the Puerto Nuevo seaport, more than $27.8 million will fund construction at six loading docks, the port’s main roadway and the Trafon Building — a two-story, corrugated metal warehouse that serves as one of the main storage facilities for perishable food items.

Nearly $2.8 million is earmarked for hazard mitigation work that includes strengthening metal rooftops, improving exterior metal panels, and installing anchoring systems and impact-resistant windows.

Meanwhile, the José Aponte de la Torre Regional Airport, located in the former Roosevelt Roads Navy base in Ceiba, was awarded nearly $16.5 million to repair its main terminal, pilot school, storage and hangers. This amount includes nearly $800,000 for hazard mitigation repairs, to prevent or reduce future damages from similar events.

“Restoration efforts aim at the public welfare and public interest, which is why these permanent improvements to repair and mitigate damage caused by Hurricane Maria will significantly benefit the Ports Authority, the Ceiba Airport, the municipalities of Aguadilla and Humacao, and other community groups,” said Joel Pizá-Batiz, executive director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.

Furthermore, FEMA awarded more than $5.5 million to repair the main terminal building at Rafael Hernández International Airport, formerly known as the Ramey Air Force Base. Located in the coastal town of Aguadilla, the airport is the largest regional air travel facility with more than 1,700 employees and nearly 700,000 passengers during 2022.

In addition to Aguadilla International Airport’s main terminal, FEMA obligated nearly $3.3 million to repair the Air Rescue Unit and Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico facilities. Lufthansa Technik specializes in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of short and medium-range aircraft.

FEMA also obligated more than $1.4 million to repair damage at the Yabucoa Harbor, a commercial maritime shipping facility at Guayanés beach that specializes in storage and distribution of fuel and petroleum derivatives, such as diesel, bunker C, jet fuel and gasoline.

This obligation will allow repairs at several structures, including Pier No. 1, the West Wharf, East Wharf and the breakwater area. It provides nearly $231,600 in hazard mitigation repairs to protect against future similar damage.

“In support of the Ports Authority, [Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3)] advanced $20.5 million through the Working Capital Advance pilot program for multiple reconstruction projects that will transform the ports and airports infrastructure into a modern and resilient one for the socioeconomic benefit of Puerto Rico,” said Manuel Laboy, COR3’s executive director.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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