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Ports Authority unveils $21.8M in improvements to Culebra airport, dock

The Puerto Rico Ports Authority broke ground on the reconstruction of the Benjamín Rivera Noriega airport in Culebra and unveiled the recently completed improvements to the island municipality’s cargo dock. The projects represent a combined investment of $21.8 million.

Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá said the $7.4 million bid process for the airport project, awarded to Desarrolladora JA, was held in mid-2020.

The improvements, which were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, are estimated to be completed in 14 months, and will generate some 74 direct jobs in its construction stage.

“Ports carried out a pavement inspection program at all airports. The condition of the pavements was evaluated according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s standards and ASTM International,” Pizá said.

“From the evaluation, it came to light that some airports had pavement issues that had to be addressed according to industry standards, including the Culebra airport,” he said.

The agency also identified that several of Visual Navigation Aids tools had reached their useful life, so they needed to be updated with state-of-the-art technology to increase the security of aircraft and their occupants, Pizá said.

The scope of the project consists of improvements to the pavement, including work on the asphalt surface; paint markings; drains; and changes to the geometry of some intersections. It also includes updating all visual navigation aid systems; airfield lighting; signaling signs; windsock; beacon; and a new concrete dome for current regulators with an emergency generator; and an additional fuel tank for greater resilience.

Ports expedited the plans and specifications, as well as the bid during the pandemic to be able to access funds without requiring a match from the CARES Act, Pizá said.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed the completion of the Culebra cargo ferry dock improvement project, which called for a $14.4 million investment in the Sardinas ($10.1 million) and San Ildefonso ($4.3 million) piers. The funding is a combination of money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Transportation Agency, and Ports.

The old dock had critical structural problems that compromised the safety of passengers and supplies for the island municipality, government officials said. 

To demolish and rebuild the pier, Ports carried out a first phase when it built a new alternate pier in the San Ildefonso sector. This new dock allowed cargo operations to be relocated to keep the Maritime Transportation Authority service.

With the new dock in operation, the second phase of demolition and reconstruction of the loading ramp in the Sardinas sector was carried out. Both phases of the project were contracted out to Del Valle Group LLC. 

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

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