$10 million in runway safety upgrades at McAllen International Airport

by Public Information Office | Sep 26, 2014

The McAllen International Airport will soon begin construction on critical runway safety enhancements thanks to a multimillion dollar Federal Aviation Administration grant secured by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa that will fund 90 percent of the venture.

Congressman Hinojosa, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and city leaders marked the federal award with a news conference on Thursday Sept. 25, 2014 to highlight the upcoming improvements to comply with a federal mandate for Runway Safety Areas (RSA).

"The $10 million we have received from the Federal Aviation Administration will provide much needed runway safety measures to protect passengers and crews," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa.  "The Rio Grande Valley is a strategic hub for trade and commerce.  New businesses are opening and oil shale fields to the north and now south of us are creating jobs.  As our region continues to grow in population and in economic impact, more and more visitors and business travelers will be arriving at this airport.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a succession of aircraft accidents nationwide signalled the need for airports to boost the safety of their runways. A runway safety area is the surface surrounding each end of a runway that provides safety margins for aircraft landing and departing in the event of an undershoot or overrun. In 2005, Congress passed a law that requires airports to improve RSA’s by December 31, 2015.

“McAllen International Airport is committed to the continuous development of infrastructure that will maximize safety for all of our passengers,” Elizabeth Suarez, Director of Aviation, said. “This grant award allows us the opportunity to do this while ensuring our runway is in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 requirements as well as meeting the deadline mandated by Federal Order 7050.1B.”

The RSA project at McAllen Airport will consist of mass-grading and fence reconstruction on the east end, near 10th Street. The improvements on the west end, adjacent to 23rd Street, will include installation of an engineered materials arresting system (EMAS). The EMAS bed contains high energy, lightweight crushable concrete blocks that will collapse under the weight of an aircraft and prevent it from veering off the runway in the event of an emergency.

“I congratulate the City of McAllen for their efforts in obtaining this important grant and I was very proud to help as well and I will continue working with the City of McAllen and the McAllen International Airport as this project continues," Congressman Hinojosa said.

The estimated cost of the project is $10.4 million. The City of McAllen will provide a 10 percent local match for the runway improvements. Construction will begin in October 2014 and is expected to be complete by August of 2015.