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Design of the new airport at Santa Lucía. Design of the new airport at Santa Lucía.

Santa Lucía airport opening in 2022, 6 months behind schedule

'High degree of coordination and secrecy' required due to the airport's location on an air force base

The Santa Lucía airport will open in January 2022, six months later than originally anticipated, according to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena).

President López Obrador has said repeatedly that the new airport will open in June 2021 but Sedena, which is managing the project, said in a document that the facility won’t be ready until the start of the following year.

Construction is expected to start next month and according to the master plan will be completed in 30 months.

Sedena said that because the new airport is being built at an air force base, work must be carried out “with the greatest speed [and] a high degree of coordination and secrecy on the part of the builders so as not to interfere with and hinder the necessary continuity of operations [at the base].”

Three runways – two for commercial use and one for military use – a control tower and a terminal building with touch points for 30 planes are part of the infrastructure to be built during the first phase of the 80-billion-peso (US $4.2-billion) project.

Brigadier General Ricardo Vallejo, head of the military college of engineers, said earlier this year that the airport will be “austere in its design, efficient, functional, sustainable, easy to build . . . safe and emblematic.”

In its first year of operations, the airport will have the capacity to handle 22 million passengers.

To partially fund expansion in subsequent years – the target is to have a capacity of 100 million passengers annually by 2052 –  the newspaper El Economista said the government is planning to use resources collected via passenger taxes.

It was revealed last month that over the next 19 years, taxes paid by passengers flying into and out of the existing Mexico City airport will be used to pay debt associated with the cancelation of the abandoned airport project in Texcoco, México state.

Scrapping the previous government’s partially-built project and instead converting the Santa Lucía Air Force Base into a commercial airport will generate savings of at least 100 billion pesos and solve congestion problems at the current airport more quickly, according to the president.

But even before construction has begun the project has faced a range of problems.

The presence of a pesky hill less than 10 kilometers from the construction site forced expensive changes to the project’s master plan including the repositioning of the runways, while a collective opposed to wasteful government spending has filed 147 separate requests for injunctions against the airport, some of which have been granted.

However, Sedena says there are now no geographical obstacles to the project, while the president asserted Monday that the legal challenges won’t be a barrier to the commencement of construction.

Speaking at Mexico City’s zócalo, López Obrador said the “torrent of injunctions” filed against the project by opponents of the government amounted to “legal sabotage.”

But he pledged that “we’re being careful in the authorization process for the environmental impact study” in order to “not give them any excuse to continue” their opposition.

Source: El Economista (sp) 

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