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Puerto Rico gov’t unveils $135M Aguadilla airport runway project

Puerto Rico government officials headed by Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced the $135 million construction project of a new 8-26 runway at the Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla.

The five-year project will be financed with federal grants and the Puerto Rico Ports Authority’s own funds, making it the largest infrastructure project in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Vázquez said.

“This project is extremely important for Puerto Rico and goes hand-in-hand with the development of a cargo and passenger transshipment operations hub in Aguadilla, after the the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval to the project in April,” the governor said.

The Aguadilla airport is the second most-active facility in Puerto Rico, after the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Commercial airlines including JetBlue, United and Spirit, as well as air cargo companies such as FedEx, Emirates, Caribe Express, and CargoLux use the airport, generating 1,400 direct and another 6,000 indirect jobs, Aguadilla Mayor Yanitsia Irizarry said.

“That represents more than $1.5 billion annually for the island’s economy. The construction of this new runway will definitely be a key element in promoting more tourism and economic development in Aguadilla, as well as the entire western region,” said Irizarry.

In 2018, the Ports Authority submitted the “Aguadilla Runway Reconstruction Project” to the Federal Aviation Administration, which accepted it, contingent on the completion of an environmental valuation and a financial plan, among other requirements.

This petition followed an inspection of the pavements at all local airports, which revealed that Aguadilla’s runway 8-26 showed defects that required its complete reconstruction, Ports Authority Executive Director Joel A. Pizá-Batiz said.

In September, the agency received a $24.2 million grant to develop the runway reconstruction project at the Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla, as this media outlet reported.

“The Ports Authority’s Planning and Environmental divisions completed all the required studies, obtaining the FAA’s final approval, which allowed the assignment of the additional grant. The environmental process was participatory and publicly shared, in accordance with the National Environmental Protection Act,” Pizá-Batiz said.

The plan that the FAA approved for the runway allows construction activities to be carried out without interrupting the operations of the Aguadilla airport facility, he said.

The scope of work includes demolishing buildings south of the airport, converting the Mike runway into a new runway parallel to the existing runway, and converting the existing runway into a taxiway.

The government will now move on to create the Request for Proposals, to seek a project manager and a contractor. The RFP process should open in March 2021, with a selection of the proponent slated for April and the signing of the contract in May. The project should break ground in the third quarter of 2021, he said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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