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Control tower rises at the new airport. Control tower rises at the new airport.

New airport: the right project in the wrong place, says UN commission

Cutting-edge design, technology cited along with unstable ground

The new Mexico City International Airport is needed but it’s being built in the wrong place, says the head of a United Nations (UN) economic commission.

Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), also said in a post to her Twitter account Saturday that the Santa Lucía Air Force Base in México state could provide a temporary solution to overcrowding at the existing airport.

In the tweet, which was directed to president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, she also proposed that consideration be given to Toluca, although it is unclear whether she was suggesting greater use be made of the city’s airport or that the México state capital could be an alternative site for a new international airport.

“Airport necessary [but it’s] in the wrong area. With cutting-edge design and technology but in an area with water regulation [that is] unstable over Lake Nabor Carrillo. Temporary solution could be 2 runways at Santa Lucía and why not think about Toluca in association with the fast train . . .” Bárcena wrote.

Extensive preparation of the airport’s construction site, which lies on an ancient lake bed to the northeast of the capital in Texcoco, was needed to slow down an inevitable sinking process.

During most of the election campaign period, the president-elect railed against the airport project, charging that it is corrupt, too expensive and not needed.

But two weeks before the July 1 election, López Obrador softened his stance by saying that ultimately the people would decide its fate, while after his landslide victory he has proposed holding a public consultation at the end of October that could take the form of a referendum.

The leftist leader has already proposed the Santa Lucía option suggested by Bárcena, although some aviation experts have contended that the plan is unviable because of the base’s proximity to the existing airport, meaning that aircraft would be too close to each other in the same limited airspace as they descend to land.

However, Chilean aviation experts cited in an expert report on the multi-billion-dollar project delivered to López Obrador’s transition team last month said that the airports could co-exist although they stressed greater analysis was needed.

Pursuing the air force base path, however, would not come cheap.

Prospective transportation secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú said last month that canceling the new airport project and adapting the Santa Lucía base for commercial aviation would cost 170 billion pesos (US $9 billion).

The Mexico City-Toluca intercity passenger train project also cited by Bárcena has a stop where shuttle services will run to the latter city’s airport.

That project has faced a range of problems including overruns and delays and its projected completion date appears uncertain.

Meanwhile, the Mexico City Airport Group, the company developing the project, reported in July that the new airport is 31.5% complete.

With just three months left until the end of the current federal government’s six-year term, the future of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s signature infrastructure project remains uncertain.

In a video message recorded on board a plane as he awaited take-off to Tabasco from Mexico City Saturday and retweeted by Bárcena, López Obrador reiterated his support for a debate discussing the pros and cons of continuing with or scrapping the airport project before a public consultation is held.

“There are two options, two paths, and the people will decide,” he said.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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