City officials gathered at Hobby Airport for a Monday morning groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction on a new five-gate international terminal.
Southwest Airlines — which will fund the $156 million expansion in exchange for rent-free use of four gates for 25 years — estimates the 280,000-square-foot project will bring more than a million additional travelers to the south Houston airport each year.
Slated to open by late 2015, the facility will become Southwest's first international terminal, making way for the airline's foray into Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dallas architects Corgan Associates — designers of Bush Intercontinental Airport's Terminal E as well as an upcoming residential tower along Hermann Park — are leading the Hobby project, which nearly doubles the current size of airport and will include expanded ticketing areas and new security checkpoints.
"Establishing international air service at William P. Hobby Airport will benefit Houston passengers in a variety of different ways, including increasing competition, boosting the local economy, and strengthening the ties that already exist with our friends in Latin America," Mayor Annise Parker says in a Monday statement.
"And perhaps the best news of all, it comes at no expense to the Houston taxpayer."
To accommodate the uptick in passenger traffic, the city's Houston Airport System department will use general airport revenues to build a $55 million parking garage with 2,500 spaces that will connect to the new terminal via a third-floor pedestrian bridge. The Houston Chronicle reports that an additional $30 million in revenue will go toward roadway modifications and needed air conditioning work.