Construction of the 285bn-peso (US$14.7bn) international airport east of Mexico City must continue, according to three local engineering associations.
The recommendation was made following a review of the two options that Mexicans will be able to choose from in a public consultation to determine the course of action the incoming government of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) will adopt to deal with excess capacity at the existing Benito Juárez airport.
The associations made the analysis at AMLO's own request and delivered their report to transport and communications minister-designated Javier Jiménez Espriú at a press conference held Wednesday evening.
The review was conducted by the college of Mexican civil engineers (CICM), the academy of engineering (AI), and the union of engineer associations (UMAI).
Jiménez Espriú and his team are now set to review the report, which will be published on AMLO's website on Saturday to officially begin discussion sessions in the run-up to the consultation on October 28.
The two options are either to continue construction of the mega airport or to cancel it and instead build two runways at Santa Lucía military airport and link them to the existing airport.
THE REPORT'S CONCLUSIONS
Although the documents containing the analysis have not yet been made public, some details have surfaced.
In an interview with online radio show Aristegui Noticias, AI president José Francisco Albarrán said that his organization considered construction of the project must continue due to the progress already made on the infrastructure. The engineer said that the proposal for Santa Lucía airport is still at a very early conceptual phase, with further studies needed to define factors such as passenger capacity.
UMAI's president Salvador Landeros also cited progress on the airport's works, as well as the investments already made, as the reasons why his association recommended not cancelling the project. However, he added that continuing the project will imply having to address the future of the Nabor Carrillo lake and finding ways to mitigate environmental and urban problems.
Some groups within UMAI said that the Santa Lucía option offers better soil conditions, would imply less environmental and social impact, and involves significantly lower maintenance costs, Landeros said. He also said more information on the Santa Lucía proposal was needed before a more detailed comparison could be made.
Regards the flooding risks that the new airport will eventually experience if it is completed, Landeros said that solutions exist to mitigate them. "However, the maintenance costs for the land under the terminal and runways [to prevent floods] will be very expensive."
Progress on the new airport, being built in Texcoco is reportedly only 20% and not 31% as the outgoing federal government had reported, according to Jiménez Espriú.
The information was provided to AMLO's infrastructure team by project manager Parsons at a recent meeting, Jiménez Espriú told the press conference.
"It would be concluded by 2023 or 2024, in the best scenario," he said.
The possible cancellation of the airport would not have a direct impact on Mexico's sovereign credit rating, according to Jaime Reusche, debt analyst at ratings agency Moody's.
"[The cancellation] would not have a direct effect on the sovereign debt rating because it's a very limited impact on public finances. Although it would be a very negative sign on the direction the government is heading," the analyst said at an event Moody's organized in Mexico City on Wednesday.
AMLO takes office December 1, replacing Enrique Peña Nieto.