MIAMI — Mexico’s new President, Andres Lopez Obrador, is no longer threatening to halt the construction of Mexico City’s new $13 billion mega airport.
The socialist President-elect had threatened during his campaign that the airport’s construction was unnecessary and too expensive for the Mexican taxpayer.
Lopez Obrador even put the cancellation of this project as one of his most controversial promises.
“We’re going to cancel this project and use the money to create jobs and boost education,” said the socialist President-Elect during his campaign.
However, Carlos Slim, the Mexican magnate who happens to be one of the world’s richest, said that “stopping the project is stopping the country’s growth.”
According to Federico Patino, CEO of Grupo Aeroportuario de la Ciudad de México, the cancellation of the airport’s project would cost the country about $6.6 billion.
Slim also emphasized that the airport’s project “will have such an impact in the country’s economy that it could be comparable to the Panama Canal,” he said.
The new airport’s project was announced in 2014 by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who promised to replace the congested Benito Juárez International Airport to meet with growing demand.
The estimated time for opening its doors to the flying public is set for 2025.
The President Retracts
One week after Lopez Obrador was elected President, his assistant, Abel Hibert, confirmed that “there would be no immediate suspension until a review was carried out into the project’s contacts,” according to Bloomberg.
Hibert mentioned that there is a possibility of auctioning the airport’s project to the private sector.
There were also initial discussions of moving the project elsewhere, which is highly unlikely as the construction is already underway.
Peña Nieto also stressed that the construction of the new airport would provide over 160,000 jobs in the Mexico City area—a fact that likely pushed Lopez Obrador to keep the project going.
Odd Site For Building An Airport
“This airport is not technically feasible; it’s going to sink,” the President said during his campaign.
The location of the new airport is settled on top of the old Texoco lake, adjacent to the current Benito Juares International Airport (MEX).
According to several reports, the old lake’s unstable soil causes the terrain to sink.
Peña Nieto’s administration stressed that the new airport’s location was chosen following several years of studies conducted by specialists in the field.
Opposers to the airport’s project claim that building it on top of a lake is going to damage the city’s ecosystem.
Even though the lake has been empty for centuries, activists claim that the lake could be re-filled and provide water to the world’s most dense city.
The airport’s promoters, however, defend the project by saying that it will be self-sustainable with an architectural design powered by an artificial climate system that will reduce emissions to the atmosphere per passenger.
The Project’s Details
The mega airport’s design includes six runways, a four-story terminal, estimated to have an initial capacity of over 60 million passengers per year.
When the project is completed, over 125 million passengers will be transiting through its terminals.
The construction project will be divided into two major phases. The first contemplates three parallel runways with a capacity to handle 410,000 airplane movements per year.
The terminals will be equipped with 118 stands, capable of moving over 50 million passengers per year.
The second phase expands the airport’s capacity to 125 million passengers with the addition of three more runways.
Two main terminals and two satellite terminals will be nestled between six active runways. The overall area extends to 5,000 hectares powered through state of the art green energy technology.
According to Foster and Partners, the company that won the bid for the airport’s design, “At 743,000 square meters, it will be one of the world’s largest airports and will revolutionize airport design – the entire terminal is enclosed within a continuous lightweight gridshell, embracing walls and roof in a single, flowing form, evocative of flight.”
“The design ensures short walking distances and few level changes, it is easy to navigate, and passengers will not have to use internal trains or underground tunnels – it is a celebration of space and light.”
What to expect
With the new socialist President taking the reins of Mexico, the airport’s project timeline will surely be affected by his political agenda.
The new administration’s Press Secretary, Javier Jimenez Espriu, promised that should the project be terminated, all current contracts will be honored. “And if the cancellation were to go forward, we would follow the law’s terms to make it happen,” he said.
However, what Jimenez Espriu did confirm, is that should the project continue, it will be ready by 2023 and not 2020, as it was originally promised by the Peña Nieto administration.
But sources say that the airport will be ready by 2025 instead.
Overall, the drastic change in Mexico’s political climate will bring delays and further discussions in the development of what will become Latin America’s largest airport.