Mexicans Will Vote For New Airport In Mexico City

By Rodrigo Cervantes
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - 5:31pm
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 9:40am

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New airport that was being built in Mexico City.
Bird's eye view of the remains of the new airport that was being built in Mexico City in 2019.

MEXICO CITY — This week, Mexico will decide if its capitol, Mexico City, will have a new airport.

The project would replace the current saturated terminals, but the elected president of Mexico decided to put the new airport on a vote — even though it is already being built.

In his campaign, president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador threatened to cancel the $13 billion airport project, claiming it’s too expensive and filled with corruption.

But after being elected, López Obrador decided to open a referendum, promoting the alternative to reuse three airports: those in Mexico City and Toluca, as well as a repurposed air force base.

“This project is a reality; the other one is a chimera,” said Raúl González Apaolaza, head of the construction of the new airport.

Apaolaza said the new airport is making progress and facing unfounded accusations, while López Obrador’s project has no fundamentals or studies to support it.

Supporters of López Obrador and critics to the new airport argue that the project is environmentally unsafe and threatening to the local farmers. But González explained that part of the project has included efforts to revitalize the ecosystem and is hiring local workers.

“We didn’t invade anyone’s land, and we don’t have any problems with the local community,” said the engineer.

The new airport would be seven-times bigger than the current one in Mexico City, and would be located right next to the most populated municipality of the country, Ecatepec. The design comes from the architectural firm Foster and Partners, and more than 30 percent of it has been built already, González said.

Unlike the U.S., where most of the airports are owned by the cities, most of Mexican airports are a concession. The new airport’s cost, González explained, is covered 30 percent with fiscal investments and 70 percent is private funding.

Control and supervision relies on the federal government. The new airport is managed by state-owned group Grupo Aeropuertario de la Ciudad de México. 

López Obrador has not presented any proof of his accusations, but justified the referendum as a way to let Mexicans decide. “The people (are) wise,” he said.

But González is concerned with the lack of information for the voters. “Yes, the people [are] wise … when they are informed,” he said.

González also fears that, if the vote goes against the new project, it will affect business and tourism, while generating compensation costs and a bad financial qualification for Mexico.

“A well-planned and internationally-endorsed project that has technical justification, became politicized,” the engineer said.

Mexicans from all over the country will be able to vote from Thursday until Sunday.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Raúl González Apaolaza's name.