Construction of the federal government’s new airport in México state will begin Monday, President López Obrador announced today, just as an official report came out warning that it could reach saturation just 10 years after starting operations.
“I’ll say in advance, because my chest isn’t a storeroom and I always say what I think, that we’re going to start construction of the new airport next Monday,” the president said at the inauguration of the 2019 Aerospace Fair.
The fair is being held at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base, which will be converted into a commercial airport that is expected to begin operations in 2021.
López Obrador said the 78-billion-peso (US $4.15-billion) airport will be named after Felipe Ángeles, a military hero of the Mexican Revolution.
He explained that there are 3,000 hectares of land available for construction at the Santa Lucía site whereas the current Mexico City airport has just 600 hectares.
“We’re talking five times the surface [area],” López Obrador said, adding that unlike the ancient lakebed in Texcoco, México state, where the cancelled Mexico City airport project was being built, the Santa Lucía site is “solid ground.”
The president declared that his decision to cancel the US $13-billion signature infrastructure project of the previous government had saved the Santa Lucía base from closure.
“It was saved from disappearing by the controversial decision not to build the Texcoco airport. The AICM [Mexico City International Airport] and this military airport would have had to close if that project continued because of air interference,” López Obrador said.
At his morning press conference earlier today, the president referred to a Secretariat of Defense (Sedena) report stating that the projected cost of the airport has increased by more than 8 billion pesos. The overrun is mainly due to changes in the original master plan which are required because of the presence of a 2,625-meter hill near the airport.
López Obrador denied that the original plan didn’t consider the hill.
“Of course, the hill was taken into account Do you know since when? Since around 50 years ago when the Santa Lucía military airport was built . . . I imagine that the hill existed then,” he said.
But while the plan might have considered the hill, the budget did not.
The president has argued that pursuing the Santa Lucía project instead of Texcoco will save billions of pesos and solve the current Mexico City airport’s saturation problems more quickly.
But the Institute of Engineering at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), Sedena and the Military School of Engineers said in an environmental impact report that the new airport’s capacity will soon be tested.
The report said that if air traffic is redirected to Santa Lucía from the existing Mexico City airport and the one in Toluca in order to ease congestion, “it is estimated that this airfield will begin to experience saturation problems 10 years after it is placed in service.”
The findings were based on a 4% annual growth projection for demand for airport services in the Valley of Mexico.
In its first year it is expected that around 18 million passengers will use the Santa Lucía airport but its planned capacity is for 100 million passengers a year, although little detail has been provided to show how that will be achieved.
It is estimated that the Santa Lucía, Mexico City and Toluca airport will have a combined capacity of around 80 million passengers annually but demand will likely exceed that figure in the year 2032.
In 2051 – the year Santa Lucía’s predicted 30-year life span will expire – demand will be around 170 million passengers a year, the UNAM/Sedena report said.