VIPA Short Lists Four for Airport Expansions

An influx of private money could modernize USVI airports, scrapping rickety stairs for most flights. (Source file photo)

The V.I. Port Authority Board’s greenlight to a shortlist of four proposals will help the port push forward quickly with airport expansions in both districts, bringing them, according to Executive Director Carlton Dowe, up to the standards of modern facilities around the world.

In December, port officials and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. launched a nationwide appeal to contractors interested in an airport modernization project and, during a press conference, said they would be exploring a public-private partnership that would take much of the financial burden off VIPA’s shoulders. Eight proposals came in, and on Wednesday, four made the shortlist, which now gives VIPA the chance to put together a comprehensive Request for Proposals that officials hope to issue in June.

Selected were: daa International, Vantage Airport Group Ltd., Vinci Airports and VIports Partners. Speaking to the Source after Wednesday’s board meeting, Dowe explained that the preferred bidder would provide infrastructure financing, airport operations and maintenance at the two V.I. airports, while VIPA maintains ownership, though a long-term lease will be granted, based on terms set by the board.

“Part of what we are doing is that we clearly want to maximize the footprint that we already have,” Dowe explained. “The second floors of the airports, for example, clearly have to be used, and we’re looking at features like jet bridges, restaurants, concessions, stores — just like any other modern airport you’ll see.”

Developing a 10,000-foot runway for St. Croix would also be included, along with the building of major warehouses and transshipment areas, he added.

Once an RFP is developed and issued, the goal is to recommend a preferred company to the VIPA board by January 2024, Dowe said, with a final decision announcement to follow. A groundbreaking for the terminals’ redevelopment could be held by the fourth quarter of next year, he added.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, the governor commended the Port Authority team for taking the step forward.

“Upgrading our airports to be on par with those on the mainland has been something we in the territory have wanted and needed for a long time,” Bryan said. “I have said many times that the Virgin Islands is on the move with the many, many projects underway, and the response to the Port Authority’s RFQ process shows that the rest of the world knows we’re on the move, too.”

Along with maintaining ownership of the airports, VIPA will also remain the Federal Aviation Authority certificate holder, which allows the Port Authority to maintain its eligibility to receive FAA grants.