10-mile, $201 million Miami International Airport baggage system ready for takeoff
By Ashley D. Torres
Federal certification begins next week for Miami International Airport's North Terminal fully-automated baggage system, whose cost has almost doubled since the airport took over the project.
The now $201 million system was estimated at $110 million when the airport inherited the North Terminal's development from American Airlines in 2005, said Juan Carlos Arteaga, the airport's North Terminal project director. The baggage system cost gradually rose over several years with Transportation Security Administration requirement changes.
In 2007, based on the airport's understanding with the transportation administration to meet pre-2007 security measures, Mr. Arteaga said, the cost hit $150 million, after a revised contract with Siemens reflected the new measures and inefficiencies were discovered.
The baggage system cost would rise again in 2008 after the administration required the airport to meet additional 2007 security standards. In exchange for the additional upgrades to the baggage system, however, the transportation administration awarded the project a $54 million grant.
In 2008, the airport conducted an analysis with Siemens for the additional security measures, Mr. Arteaga said, and increased the system cost to $201 million, which includes the $54 million grant.
The new baggage system, which has been called one of the largest baggage systems by the transportation administration, Mr. Arteaga said, features 10 miles of conveyor belts, a capacity of 8,400 bags per hour and seven domestic and 10 international baggage claim carousels. The system is to deliver luggage from ticketing counters directly to departure gates.
Currently, passengers must take bags to a drop-off location where the transportation administration runs luggage through detection machines that scan for explosives.
From Nov. 8 to Jan. 28, the baggage system is to undergo a transportation administration certification process. After certification is received, American Airlines and American Eagle ticket agents are to move from temporary ticketing counters to permanent ones.
The new baggage system is then to operate for 30 days with the old baggage system intact to be used in the event of complications. After the 30 days, the old system is to be dismantled.
The new system, Mr. Arteaga has said in the past, should run freely by February.
In addition to the baggage system cost rising, the cost for the North Terminal development, which included reconfiguring existing concourses to create the mile-long linear terminal, also rose when the airport took over the project. The original projected cost was $1.6 billion in 2005 but, Mr. Arteaga said, the "budget was not a budget."
With the airport creating real project estimates, five years of delays and almost half a billion dollars in claims, the cost for terminal development rose to $3 billion.
The North Terminal includes 50 gates, a variety of new restaurants and shops, and the Concourse D Skytrain, which travels at about 30 mph and can transport up to 9,000 passengers per hour.