Mexico’s $9 Billion Airport to Open With Three Runways

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the new airport planned for the nation’s capital will initially operate with three runways and have the capacity to serve 50 million passengers annually.

Eventually, the $9.2 billion facility will expand to include six runways and shuttle almost 120 million passengers a year, quadrupling the capacity of the current one. That compares with other recently announced mega-airports, including one in Istanbul designed for 150 million passengers a year and another in Dubai that will handle 160 million, according to the CAPA Centre for Aviation.

The airport project accelerates the pace of public works Pena Nieto set in motion this quarter. It will help to bolster a construction recovery, according to Credit Suisse Group AG, after the sector contracted for 18 months in a row through May.

This is “one of the best moments for the infrastructure sector in Mexico,” Credit Suisse said in a Sept. 1 report. The government “will expedite the implementation of the national infrastructure plan.”

The commitment from the government, the biggest public-works project in Pena Nieto’s six-year term, caps months of deliberation about how to ease congestion at the current Benito Juarez International, which has the most takeoffs and landings in Latin America and handled a record 31.5 million passengers in 2013.

A group of nine Mexican companies, including Empresas ICA SAB and Grupo Carso SAB, will present a joint bid to build the new structure, according to the Mexican Construction Industry Chamber. They could be pitted against international rivals including Spain’s Obrascon Huarte Lain SA, which will probably seek to participate since it has experience in the sector and in Mexico, said Javier Gayol, a Corporativo GBM SAB analyst.

Traffic Congestion

Left unchecked, air-traffic congestion will cause the current airport to turn away passengers as soon as next year as it fails to meet demand, according to a report by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute, a Mexico City-based think tank. Benito Juarez is already generating losses as it moves only 0.6 percent of the freight shipped by the world’s 55 largest airports, Citigroup Inc. said in an August research note, citing the think tank’s data.

The airport project languished as 48-year-old Pena Nieto focused on opening up the oil and gas industry to more private investment, boosting competition among telecommunications companies and overhauling the nation’s education system. And it still may face hurdles. A farmers’ organization staged protests over land rights near the new airport site that ended in violent clashes Aug. 22, according to El Universal and messages posted on the group’s blog.

In 2002, Mexico abandoned an attempt to build a $3 billion airport when farmers seeking to protect their land staged machete-wielding demonstrations. The group that protested last month, the Land Defense Community Front, is from the same town of San Salvador Atenco.

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