Mexico remains the meetings powerhouse of Latin America, but its vibrant capital city may have to do with runway additions at a nearby air base instead of heralding a shiny new airport. Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Oct. 29 that he intends to scrap construction of the $13 billion project to replace cramped and aging Mexico City International Airport (MEX).
More than $5 billion has reportedly already been spent on the project, which is one-third complete.
The huge new airport was designed by innovative British architect Norman Foster, who designed Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong.
Outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto intended the new airport, on the dry bed of Texcoco Lake east of the city, to be his signature public work, and a new hub for the Americas, according to The New York Times. Lopez Obrador, who takes office in January, had repeatedly questioned the project’s cost and whether construction contracts were awarded fairly. There have been other concerns as well, such as those of environmental groups that argued the area would flood during the rainy season.
A nonbinding referendum in which fewer than 2 percent of Mexico’s eligible voters participated gave a strong thumbs down to the new airport, and Lopez Obrador said he would heed the result. Some 70 percent of voters chose an option to build two new runways at an air base north of the city to take some of the air traffic from the current airport.
Many in Mexico’s business community are protesting the cancellation, according to news reports, arguing that it will send a signal of Mexican instability to the world.