Written by Jesse Scheckner on May 28, 2019
Up to $5 billion in improvements at Miami-Dade’s five airports are a vote away, with lawmakers to decide Tuesday if they’ll OK funds and first plans focusing on Miami International Airport (MIA).
The 15-year, $4 billion to $5 billion program is meant to meet needs through “2035 and beyond,” a memo from Mayor Carlos Giménez said.
MIA last year passed 45 million passengers, ranking it third-busiest nationwide, and set a new record for international freight. The hub today handles more than two-thirds of all US air trade. By 2040, annual exports at MIA are projected to double to 4.8 million tons.
Aviation Director Lester Sola last month called the possible $5 billion price tag “an incredible number” whose exact figure depends on what the county gets in federal grants.
Unlike prior upgrades that tied up parts of MIA while underway, Mr. Sola said this program can “start and stop as needed depending on the economic conditions.”
“If we have to slow down or defer a project,” he said, “we are still able to utilize the terminals.”
The upgrade’s five “sub-programs” center on MIA’s North, Central and South terminals, cargo facilities, and other upgrades, including two new on-site hotels.
A “gate optimization” at the North Terminal would update 23 gates to serve larger aircraft and upgrade the terminal’s frontage to better accept planes and reduce congestion.
Another project at American Airlines’ “American Eagle” facility in Concourse D would increase flights by large regional jets and include “spacious holdrooms” with new concession offerings.
The Southern Terminal would add three jumbo jet gates, including an apron expansion allowing three more wide-body planes to park.
Significant changes to the Central Terminal would demolish Concourse G, which Mr. Sola said is outdated and more a hindrance than an asset. Despite resulting in fewer gates overall, removing G would add capacity by giving planes more room to move, he said, as bottlenecks now hinder both Concourses G and F.
Other enhancements to the Central Terminal include a larger security checkpoint, new concession areas, a partially raised roof adding natural light, and queuing space similar to the other two terminals.
Plans to modernize and expand cargo capacity include an added taxiway, fuel tender, fumigation facility and expansions to a building and apron.
The county would also develop two new hotels at MIA. One would be east of the Dolphin garage and across from the North Terminal.
The other – to be placed on the existing short-term parking deck and former heliport connecting MIA to Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Metrobus and the hub’s rental car center – would double as a business and conference center with exhibition space, premium meeting rooms and an auditorium.
Other improvements include road and bridge enhancements, a bus maintenance site, garage and unspecified projects at the North and South Terminals.
The county’s other air hubs would also be upgraded, Mr. Sola said, adding that Miami Executive Airport, which is “in an exceptional position” to expand charter and cargo traffic, needs a new air traffic control tower.
Mr. Sola said that while his department wants to increase efficiency within the county’s existing airport footprints, “the focus is also on land acquisition in the future.”