U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced two grants totaling $23.5 million to make air service safer and more convenient for Puerto Rico's air travelers. He was joined by Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño and Congressman Pedro R. Pierluisi.
During a tour of San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), the Secretary announced a $22.6 million multi-year grant to further enhance runway safety at the airport. He also announced $900,000 in funding awarded to help launch new scheduled air service between SJU and Culebra, Puerto Rico.
"This is a big step forward for Puerto Rico's residents and visitors," Secretary LaHood said. "These grants will enhance the safety of this important airport as well as provide vital new air service for Culebra."
The $22.6 million FAA grant will fund runway safety area (RSA) improvements for Runway 8-26, the airport's longest runway. The improvements will extend the runway 400 feet to the west and relocate the east end of the runway, which will allow a standard 1,000-foot RSA for the entire runway.
The FAA is improving runways across the country as part of its Runway Safety Area Improvement Program. The FAA standards call for a 1,000-foot RSA at each end of a runway like San Juan's as a buffer zone in the event an aircraft is unable to stop before the end of the runway. The airport expects to complete the project by October 2013.
In addition, the $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) would establish the first non-stop air service between Culebra and San Juan International Airport (SJU). Culebra, in partnership with Block Island, R.I. submitted an innovative proposal to the Department with the goal of providing revenue guarantees to Cape Air for new seasonal service at both airports. Cape Air would operate the Culebra-San Juan route between October and May, and then fly the Block Island-Providence, R.I. route between May and October. This would provide new air routes for two communities that currently have very limited service, and provide access to the national air transportation system via hub airports, which they do not have today. Public and private partners in both communities have committed an additional $115,320 to the project.
SCASDP began in 2002 to help small communities address the challenges of local air service, such as high fares, insufficient levels of service, and lack of competition. Since then, the awards have helped more than 300 communities develop projects tailored to their own air service needs, such as providing financial incentives to carriers, conducting studies on the possibilities of expanded service, and carrying out marketing programs to promote existing local service.
SCASDP proposals and the Department's final order are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0069. A list of recipient communities and funding totals is available at http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2012/SCASDP.html.