Funding for $5 billion in MIA improvements left on standby
Miami International Airport’s (MIA) $5 billion capital improvement work is already underway, and after several delays, OK of bonds to fund the 15-year job was set to finally take flight Tuesday.
Now the bonds issue may once again be stalled, as a deferral request accompanied the authorizing item on the preliminary agenda for the April 7 Miami-Dade County Commission meeting.
Whether the airline industry’s massive coronavirus hit factors into the board’s final decision remains to be seen.
Lawmakers last year OK’d the program to overhaul Miami-Dade’s greatest economic engine through five sub-programs at the North, South and Central terminals, cargo facilities and a mix of other upgrades, including up to two new on-site hotels.
Plan projects totaling $984.4 million are already underway, paid by commercial paper notes in lieu of bond proceeds, but aviation revenue bonds approval is needed by July to continue its funding, Deputy Mayor Ed Marquez wrote March 3.
Unlike prior MIA improvement programs, including a $6.2 billion expansion from 1993 through the mid-2000s, funding of the current plan can be drawn down as needed so its 46 projects can “start and stop … depending on the economic conditions,” Aviation Director Lester Sola said.
That provision will prove helpful as airlines seek federal bailouts after the coronavirus pandemic all but decimated the industry.
American Airlines, MIA’s top carrier, accounting for $320 million in Aviation Department revenue last year alone, announced plans Monday to apply for $12 billion in federal aid to prevent layoffs and pay cuts through late October.
“We certainly hope and expect that by that time, the virus will be contained, Americans will be flying again and we will be back to flying a full schedule,” American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom wrote.
Delta and United, MIA’s second- and third-largest carriers by revenue, are among many others seeking aid through the $2 trillion federal CARES Act, in which $29 billion is available for air carrier loans and $29 billion for airline payroll grants.