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June Start Date Announced for $3.8B Mexico Airport

Thursday, May 2, 2019

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Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced at a recent news conference a June target date for construction to start on the new 72 billion pesos ($3.8 billion) Felipe Angeles Airport at the Santa Lucia Air Force Base just north of Mexico City.

Earlier this week, Obrador said construction would kick off as soon as Monday, but later back pedaled, saying that work would start likely in June, “once we have all the requirements.”

Some Background

Obrador has given a few estimated start dates since the plans for a new Mexico City airport were scrapped in October.

That $13.3 billion facility, designed by Foster + Partners, was about one-third complete when a public referendum ended the project with about 70% of voters choosing to end construction.

In August of last year, Obrador had announced in a press conference the fate of the airport would be left up to public opinion and the masses will decide whether to:

  • Cancel the plans and replace the new airport design with two additional runways at the Santa Lucia military airport, linked to the existing airport, or
  • Tender the development and allow private investors to fund the construction.

Funding was one of the main points of contention surrounding the project as Obrador, who officially came into office in December, ran on a platform highlighting possible corruption and wasteful spending surrounding the plans during his campaign.

The stability of the project—in addition to the money concerns—were also at the forefront for those opposing the airport. The People’s Front in Defense of Land-Atenco, a political group, had been in strict opposition of the project since its conception in 2014. The group argued that the new airport wasn’t viable for several reasons, including the land surrounding the site, which it says is unsuitable for construction, citing the presence of subterranean water and other environmental concerns.

Only about 1.2% of Mexico’s registered voters turned out for the referendum—which was held over four days.

Obrador said at the time that canceling the project will save the federal government around 100 billion pesos and that updating the existing airport would cost about 70 billion pesos.

What Now

Although the cost estimation for the Angeles project is correct, Mexico News Daily reports that once costs associated with canceling the other project are factored in, the cost looks more like 172 billion pesos.

The first stage of the slated construction includes two runways, a terminal building, a parking lot, a control tower and a freight terminal, among other facets, including a highway that will allow passengers to travel between the Angeles facility and the existing Benito Juarez International Airport in about 35 minutes, according to officials.

The new airport will reportedly have a capacity for 20 million passengers when it opens—projected to be June 2021—with the option to increase to 80 million over 50 years.

Since the site is owned by Mexico’s Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), the Mexican Army Corps of Engineers is essentially responsible for construction, though Obrador has promised that those contracted for the original plan would be involved in the Santa Lucia construction.

The previous plan included companies such as Coconal and Pavimentadora VISE, which was in charge of buildings runway No. 2; Carso Infrastructure and Construction, GIA+A, Prodemex and Peninsular Compania Consturctora were in charge of runway No. 3; and SEDENA had been in charge of soil leveling and geotechnical instrumentation for runway No. 6.

Opponents of the project argue that the facility’s proximity to the existing airport to impact flight paths for both hubs and others are still angry about abandoning the other project.

Obrador said that “bad news” for those in opposition is that residents in the area have already been consulted and consented to the construction, so the plan is full steam ahead.

“I will visit Santa Lucía on Monday but if I tell you that we’re going to start to build the airport I already know what the opponents will reply,” Obrador said when switching the start date estimation.

“They’ll say: ‘Where’s the environmental impact statement, why isn’t the law being respected?’ That’s why it was decided to do the presentation of the project on Monday and construction will begin in June.”


Tagged categories: Airports; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Latin America; NA; North America; SA; Terminals; Upcoming projects

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