Congressman Henry Cuellar, along with the City of Laredo and the Federal Aviation Administration, announced Friday $13.5 million in federal funds for improvements at the Laredo International Airport.
Congressman Henry Cuellar announced Friday two grants from the Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program to the Laredo International Airport totaling $13.5 million.
The first grant is for $6 million and will be used to mitigate airport noise in the residential area adjacent to the airport by providing sound insulation for 60 residences in close vicinity to the airport. The FAA will also purchase 16 residences and acquire aviation easement of 50 residences.
The second grant is for $7.5 million and will be used for full reconstruction of an existing taxiway at the airport, which is over two decades old and poses safety concerns due to decay.
The City of Laredo will add $1.3 million in matching funds for a total investment of $14.8 million.
“In the last five years, aircraft operations have doubled, placing Laredo among the top 10 busiest federal contract tower airports. The increase in air traffic has caused noise concerns for neighboring residences, and these grants will fix many of those concerns,” Cuellar said. “The existing taxiway has also not kept up with the growth and expansion of the airport.
“These funds will allow for a complete reconstruction to be up to par with high demand. I thank Laredo International Airport Director Jose Flores, without whose advice and guidance this project would not have been possible.”
“This is great news for the City of Laredo and for the Laredo International Airport,” said City Manager Jesus M. Olivares. “We are excited to have the FAA here to consider the possibility of having a new air traffic control tower.
“The new tower will bring the tower into the 21st century, serve Laredo for the next 40 years, improve the working conditions for our air traffic controllers, and enhance aviation safety.”
Flores added: “Taxiway ‘G’ is the last remaining pavement section on the airfield needing reconstruction, pavement that dates back to the early 1940s. We thank and appreciate Congressman Cuellar’s support in making our airport a flagship world class airport.”
Kelvin L. Solco, regional administrator of FAA’s Southwest Region, Vaughn Turner, vice president of FAA’s technical operations, and Ignacio Flores, FAA airport southwest region manager, were hosted by Cuellar in Laredo, where they toured the current Laredo air traffic control tower, constructed by the U.S. Air Force in 1970, to take into consideration the possibility of constructing a new tower.
Now more than 40 years old, the tower suffers from a number of structural and other problems that inhibit operations and pose safety risks to air traffic employees, including:
- No emergency escape exit
- No space to make room for new and modern equipment and technology
- No back-up power
- Communication disruptions with aircraft
- Inadequate air conditioning
The current traffic control tower is located along the flight line, which inhibits aviation development.
To help with this issue, Cuellar successfully included $10 million in additional funding over fiscal year 2015 in the new government funding bill to air traffic contract towers across the country. Air traffic contract towers are staffed by Federal Aviation Administration-certified air traffic controllers who work for private firms.
The additional $10 million in federal funds represents a total of $154.4 million. In addition, he included language encouraging the FAA to focus on improvements to towers that are more than 40 years old, such as the tower at the Laredo International Airport.
Laredo International Airport is home to the brand-new, state-of-the-art Bi-National Federal Inspection Services facility that allows Mexican-bound cargo to be pre-cleared on the U.S. side of the border. Laredo International Airport is among the top 50 airports in the country for cargo and is also the only airport on our southern border with U.S. customs availability 24/7/365.