A newly awarded $20 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration will be used to help build a ground load facility in Terminal A at the San Antonio International Airport as part of long-term airport growth plans, city officials said.

According to a Feb. 27 news release, the city received help from the local congressional delegation, and both Texas senators secured the $20 million from $5 billion that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated for airport terminal development projects nationwide.

The Terminal A ground load facility, which has a 37,000-square-foot pre-engineered metal building, will add capacity through five new ground gates and feature amenities such as an integrated federal inspection station for international arrivals, two levels of seating areas for passengers.

The planned Terminal A ground load facility will also contain dedicated charging stations for electronic devices, workstation areas, high tabletop stations and a lactation room as well as additional food and retail options.

Local leaders said the new ground load facility will enable new routes by both existing and new airlines and be a vital part of a yearslong terminal development plan that includes the construction of a new terminal at the airport.

“We hope this is the first of several major investments by the FAA in our Terminal Development Program,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement.

According to the release, city officials met with federal officials several times in the past year to advocate for San Antonio’s main airport and new funding opportunities to update and expand the airport.

“A ground load facility gives us the capacity to expand and accommodate more domestic and international flights, which can lead to more options for competitive fares for our passengers and helps us grow as we continue to expand and attract new airlines,” city Director of Airports Jesus Saenz said in a statement. “This is one of the opportunities to solidify our plans to create the airport of the future.”

Local officials said the ground load facility project is 30% designed by global airport planning and design firm Atkins and is undergoing solicitation for construction bids.

City Council is expected to consider a contractor award in May with construction of beginning projects, such as relocating an existing fence, foundation, site work and utilities, scheduled to begin this June or July. Construction on the facility itself would likely begin in early 2024 with a completion date of March 2025, local officials said.

“We’ve said all along that the timing of our expansion is perfect because it coincides with the federal government’s historic investment in the nation’s airport infrastructure, particularly airports that are energy efficient and accessible to all users,” City Manager Erik Walsh said in a statement. “I’m really proud to see the hard work of our team paying off.”

Three San Antonio-area U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett voted in November 2021 to approve the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $1.2 billion in infrastructure funding for Texas airports over the next five years.

Following the bill’s passage, the three local Democratic Congress members sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, advocating for the city of San Antonio’s request for funds to support the airport ground load facility and other local infrastructure and transit projects.

Recent federal funding awarded to the city includes $11.9 million for airport improvements and $1.5 million for electric airport buses and charging infrastructure.

Castro said San Antonio’s continuing population and commercial growth means the north side airport must be expanded and modernized to keep pace with that growth.

“San Antonio is steadily growing year after year, and we must ensure that our airport’s infrastructure continues to meet passenger needs and bring new jobs and business to our city,” Castro said in a statement.