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Southwest breaks ground at Hobby

Get ready to dodge construction at Hobby Airport.

The 280,000-square-foot expansion is scheduled for completion before the end of 2015, with short-hop international flights to cities in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America to begin by 2016. This will increase Hobby’s physical footprint by more than 40 percent.

“It’s on time. It’s on budget. We are pretty happy,” Bob Montgomery, Southwest’s vice president of airport affairs, said in a recent interview. “The city of Houston estimated lots of jobs and a huge economic benefit to come from this project. That is absolutely on track.”

Southwest originally estimated to Houston City Council last year that it would spend $100 million. Officials said the actual cost was higher once design and contracts were firmed up.

The airline also had announced it would start construction in May, but a federal environmental inspection delayed the groundbreaking by a few months, Montgomery said. The project was given environmental approval in August.

Houston Airport System director Mario Diaz said the agency will build a $55 million parking garage with 2,500 parking spaces, four to five parking floors and a third-floor pedestrian bridge to the terminal.

It will also spend about $17 million on roadway modifications, including elevated roadways and an extended drop-off curb. The rest, roughly $13 million, will go toward a new central unit that controls air conditioning for the new part of the airport.

See here, here, and here for some background. Southwest will spend about $156 million on the expansion, while the city will spend an additional $85 million. There’s still a concern about ensuring there are enough Customs agents to handle the incoming traffic from the five new gates, but I feel reasonably confident that will be worked out in time. As long as no one is counting on Ted Cruz to be of any help in the matter, at least. The Houston Airport System press release is here, and Prime Property has more.

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