Mexico City Nixes $13 Billion Plan for New Airport

Oct 30, 2018

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Mexican officials have scrapped a $13 billion plan for a brand new airport on the outskirts of Mexico City after 70% of voters rejected the project in a national referendum.

The infrastructure project was one of Mexico’s largest ever and had been underway since 2015. Sitting in Mexico City’s northeastern suburb of Texcoco on a drained lakebed, the site was more than one third completed with $5 billion already sunk into construction when voters struck it down over the weekend.

The new airport’s build site in Texcoco, Mexico, from the window of a plane taking off from Mexico City’s current airport in April 2018. (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

The new airport was slated to feature state-of-the-art design from British architect Norman Foster, along with an 8-million-square-foot new terminal and three runways. The first phase of the airport would’ve opened in 2020 and have been able to handle 68 million passengers per year. That is 26 million more passengers per year than the capital city’s current airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez (MEX), which was Latin America’s busiest airport after 42 million passengers passed through last year. Benito Juárez International is struggling with overcrowding and is rapidly aging.

The new airport’s subsequent expansion phase would have added three additional runways, raising the capacity to 125 million passengers per year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The new airport’s construction became a controversial issue during Mexico’s recent presidential election. During his campaign, incoming Mexican president Lopez Obrador accused the project of being rife with corruption because many of the construction contracts went to companies under the umbrella of a single Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim.

Only 1% of Mexico’s eligible voter population reportedly participated in the weekend’s vote. The referendum was nonbinding, but Obrador said he would respect the vote’s result and end the project. To replace the project, the president-elect, who officially takes office Dec. 1, has suggested transforming a military air base into a commercial operation by adding three new runways.

Featured image PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images.

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