Abreu To Propose Scaling Down Plans For New Terminal
Written by Charlotte Libov on June 1, 2006
By Charlotte Libov
Redesign and downscaling may be in the works for Miami International Airport’s North Terminal, where cost overruns and delays have added millions of dollars and years to the current capital-improvement project, Aviation Director José Abreu says.
"I’m not necessarily saying let’s mothball some of the work," Mr. Abreu said. But, he said, he plans to speak with County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, regional transportation committee chairman, about "what we need compared to what would be nice to have."
But first, Mr. Abreu said he plans to discuss his proposals this week with American Airlines, the terminal’s primary tenant.
Airport officials are grappling with how to best proceed, especially after bids opened last month for two North Terminal contracts topped $500 million, more than triple expectations.
The North Terminal is the costliest segment of the $5.2 billion airport upgrade. The new 1.2 million-square-foot South Terminal is almost done.
Among Mr. Abreu’s concern is that renovation will add to per-passenger fees airlines pay here, now $16.31, already near the nation’s highest. He said he is freezing hiring to cut contributing costs.
Officials also are considering trimming the $80 million remodeling of the existing terminal from concourses A-D, Mr. Abreu said, because these features are among the costliest, could take the longest and have the potential to lead to still more delays.
"If you’re going to assign risk to construction, the lion’s share goes to" that area, he said, because the terminal’s foundation would need to be reinforced and plans call for more elevators and many other changes. "It changes the space in lots of ways," he said. "It is very intricate."
When upgrades were designed prior to 9/11, the airport was projected to serve 55 million passengers by 2010, Mr. Abreu noted. "That just isn’t going to happen, so we have to scale back accordingly." Now, officials project about 33 million yearly passengers by 2010.
"We will take a very hard look at that design and will be re-evaluating it to see if we want to do everything, agreed John Cosper, director of capital-improvement projects. "We may eliminate some of the features but want to make sure we don’t do anything that will compromise American Airlines’ operation.
"We fully expect to cut that project back, but we need to be very careful how we do it. America is our largest carrier and we continue to see them as a partner in that project."
A large skylight might be deleted, he said. It "is beautiful but requires us to go underneath the existing foundation and put in new piles. It’s architecturally wonderful and will be difficult to give up, but we’ll need to evaluate whether it will be worth our while." To do it, Mr. Cosper said, "we’d need to shore up every floor and the construction schedule is very long. There may be some alternatives."