Sinking feeling for Mexico City airport

By Thomas Allen15 September 2017

Artist's impression of the new Mexico City airport

Artist’s impression of the new Mexico City airport

The US$13 billion project to build a new Mexico City International Airport has been threatened by a catalogue of troubles.

A rail line intended to transport materials to and from the site has been held up by land disputes and heavy rain. It is hoped to begin operating next month, but this will be one year behind schedule.

One of the runways is also late and could impede the entire project if it fails to clear safety tests and certifications in time.

Other issues include a key contractor filing for bankruptcy, the project coordinator suing the airport operators, and the collapse of a bridge that connected to a highway during a recent earthquake.

Although delays are commonly experienced on construction sites in Latin America, these particular setbacks could threaten the entire project since the 2018 presidential election is looming. Replacing the nation’s overcrowded main airport was a key promise made by President Enrique Pena Nieto, and his political opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has promised to scrap the project altogether.

Located on an old lake bed, the 5,018 hectare site had to be paved with tezontle – a volcanic rock – before work could begin.

The runways will need three more coats of the rock and two layers of basalt, which will sink about two metres into the ground, squeezing out any remaining water.

The airport, which is designed to accommodate 68 million passengers per year by 2020, will be housed in a single X-shaped glass-and-steel structure that will collect and recycle rainwater.

Despite the setbacks, the Grupo Carso joint venture that was awarded the contract for the project back in January 2017, said it was still operating to the 2020 deadline.

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