Mexico City’s new International airport is already three years into its construction – but its fate is now ambiguous, left in the hands of the people. President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently called for a public vote on whether the project will continue, stating that results will be “binding.”
Designed by British firm Foster + Partners, Mexico City-based Fernando Romero Enterprise (FR-EE) and the Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), the project was initially conceived for the 2014 Mexico City Airport competition. The airport, named the Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México, was slated to be operational by 2020. It was green-lit by departing president Enrique Peña Nieto due to the overcapacity of Mexico City’s existing airport. The plans consisted of an 8 million-square-foot X-shaped commercial aviation hub with six runways, described by Foster + Partners to be “like nothing else in the world.”
Since its inception, the project has garnered backlash due to its great strain on government funds, potential environmental harm and allegations of corruption. López Obrador has articulated his wariness of the expected $13.3 billion cost, dubbing the project a “bottomless pit.” A proposal to cancel the airport’s construction was part of López Obrador’s election campaign.
“The plan is to provide the Mexican people all the relevant information, truthfully and objectively,” stated López Obrado at a press conference last week, “so that we can all decide together on this important matter of national interest.”
A compelling reason to cancel the project is the great costs accrued, however, cancellation would also cost the Mexican economy $5.2 billion in sunk cost. In order to fulfil the initial rationale of the project in a more economical way, López Obrador’s government has proposed the expansion of the existing Mexico City airport and the refurbishment of an old military base as a secondary hub.
“So we don’t make the wrong decision the best thing is to ask,” said López Obrador, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “The Mexican people are not underage. They’re an intelligent, wise people, and we’re going with the democratic method.”