Economy Air

Mexico City’s cost-saving replacement airport to break ground in June

A rendering of the Felipe Ángeles Airport at Santa Lucía Air Force Base, approximately 29 miles north of Mexico City's center. (Courtesy the office of Andrés Manuel López Obrador)

After the cancellation of Foster + Partners’ $13 billion NAICM (Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México) via public referendum last October, the Mexican government opted to replace the scuttled Mexico City airport with a cheaper alternative.

Come June, according to Mexico News Daily, ground will be broken on the $3.8 billion Felipe Ángeles Airport at Santa Lucía Air Force Base. The design is extremely sparse compared to the spiderlike central airport proposed before it, and the first phase will feature a terminal, two runways, control tour, and a 4,000-car capacity parking lot.

The Felipe Ángeles Airport, rather than building on new land, will expand the Santa Lucía Air Force Base, and the project is being overseen and built by the military college of engineers. Brigadier General Ricardo Vallejo told Mexico New Daily that the airport should be open to travelers in June of 2021 and would accommodate up to 20 million passengers a year, growing to 80 million a year over the next five decades.

A new 29-mile-long highway will also be built to connect the northern Felipe Ángeles Airport to the existing Mexico City Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX) at a cost of $528 million.

The new airport is part of the Mexican government’s plan to split the traffic that the NAICM would have accommodated between two separate locations; currently MEX is operating at 50 percent over capacity. Additionally, the original Mexico City airport will gain a third, and possibly fourth, terminal to cope with the increased traffic.

The NAICM was canceled after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pledged in 2018 as part of his presidential campaign to hold a public referendum over the project. With 70 percent of the public in opposition, the travel hub was canceled.

Although $5 billion had already been spent by that time, opposition to the project had been mounting on a number of fronts. The total cost of the airport, once demolition of Santa Lucía and the original MEX was factored in, was estimated at $31 billion. Additionally, NAICM was being built on the wetland plain of Texcoco and would have sunk by up to 16 inches a year. Because Texcoco is so low-lying, it would have also been inundated by stormwater runoff from the surrounding city.

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