EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A $9 million improvement plan begins next week at a Southern New Mexico airport where officials want to expand the capability to land cargo planes.
Business leaders see the replacement of the 9,550-foot runway at the Doña Ana County International Jetport at Santa Teresa as a first step toward speeding up shipments of parts and components to two sprawling industrial parks next door and to manufacturing operations just across the border with Mexico.
“A lot of their stuff comes into the port of Los Angeles and is trucked to this area or flown (to El Paso) and then trucked here. If we have the ability for them to ship that cargo straight to Santa Teresa, they would save a lot of time, up to one day’s time on things that come from (Los Angeles) by truck,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association.
Santa Teresa — an unincorporated industrial community with a commercial port of entry, cattle crossing, a 230-acre industrial park and a 225-acre logistics park — is already one of Southern New Mexico’s fastest-growing economic engines.
The 36-year-old runway was built to land private planes weighin an average of 20,000 pounds. The jetport currently houses 150 small aircraft but also supports hundreds of landings a year of cargo airplanes weighing up to 80,000 pounds — a capability that will be expanded to 96,000 pounds by the improvements, Doña Ana County officials said.
“The runway technically is long enough to land cargo planes, the problem is that you’re required to have a cross-runway — a big X — for weather purposes. The whole price tag is $25 million. Every time we get a new piece of money like the $9 million, we get closer to our ultimate goal of having full-blown cargo operations there,” Pacheco said.
The $9 million for runway reconstruction comes from a combination of Federal Aviation Administration and State of New Mexico funds. Workers on Thursday were already clearing the brush near the airport’s taxi way to prepare it as a temporary landing strip while the main runway undergoes improvements starting next week.
Ramon S. Gonzalez, Doña Ana County’s District 2 commissioner, said the improvements will boost business at the Santa Teresa industrial complex. Already, the success of the industrial park is bringing about development nearby, he said.
“More warehouses will be coming in. It’s also going to bring residential areas near the industrial park,” said Gonzalez, citing new residential development already visible north of the Pete V. Domenici Highway near the intersection with McNutt Drive.
Both sources said they’re optimistic about future expansion at the airport. “It’s one of our (priorities). It’s not going to get all done next year — it’ll take at least three years — but I’m optimistic because Santa Teresa is heavily supported by (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham), the Legislature and the industrial sector,” Pacheco said.
The jetport has one of the longest runways in the region, trailing Biggs Army Airfield (13,554 feet) and El Paso International (12,020). Other Southern New Mexico airports include Deming Municipal Airport (8,018 feet), Las Cruces International Airport (7,500) and Hatch Municipal Airport (4,110).
Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.