by Michael J. Shapiro | September 10, 2014
The Mexican government will construct a new US$9.2 billion airport in Mexico City, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced during his state of the union address. The new facility, which will be constructed next to the current airport, promises six runways and a capacity of 120 million passengers a year -- dwarfing the current airport's two runways and 32 million passenger-per-year capacity. The first phase of construction, including three runways capable of serving 50 million passengers per year, is scheduled to debut in 2020. That first phase is expected to generate an additional US$3.2 billion per year in tourism revenue, according to Mexico's secretary of tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu. The new structure will provide much better service to passengers, promised Ruiz, and will serve as an icon of a modern, vibrant economic and tourism power, as well as a hub that will connect Latin America to the rest of the world. Since the announcement last week, Ruiz has been drumming up support for the project, promising a heavy influx of tourists to other parts of the state of Mexico. Meanwhile, political opponents to the president have claimed that the project, which would be constructed on a mostly dry lake bed owned by the government, would be in a flood zone and threaten native  species. A previous plan to build an airport on a nearby site more than a decade ago failed due to protests and political opposition.