Last month it was widely reported that Costa Rican government officials had received the “Overall Design and Masterplan” for the New International Metropolitan Airport from Mott MacDonald Limited. The British global management firm is also well known for its engineering and development consulting. The location study and master plan includes 2,829 pages on 24 technical studies. At least 120 professionals participated, including 80 Costa Ricans.
In most recent news, plans have been confirmed that the first stage of the project is ready to be implemented in 2018. Estimated completion of the first stage is 2027, when the airport is expected to achieve operating status. The 3.5 billion dollar project in the the Alajuela canton of Orotina is just 60 km, or 37 miles, away from San Jose. Carlos Villalta, Minister at MOPT (Public Works and Transportation) explains that it is being financed through a public-private alliance as the government does not have all the resources to fund it.
According to MOPT`s Technical Council of Civil Aviation, the location of Orotina is ideal for an airport of the proposed magnitude. Building a terminal on a site just slightly above sea level allows a succession of both aerial and business advantages like the allowance of more cargo on planes. Further destinations can also be reached. Wind studies, topography, land availability, terrain, flight procedures, environment factors and acoustic obtrusion all play a role in the determination of location and orientation of plans. Access and the developments in surrounding areas are also considered. The experts at Mott MacDonald conclude that Orotina offers unique opportunities for developing the project in ways that will enhance connectivity between ports and airports through infrastructure.
The proposed project will cover an area of 1500 hectares (15 square km) and be completed in three stages. The government will buy three hundred and seventy private properties for building the project, according to a decree signed by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solìs late May.
Carlos Segnini, a former Transport Minister and the project coordinator, estimated a budget of $41.3 million for all the properties. This is based on the technical report by Mott MacDonald.
The study confirmed the necessary expansion of Route 27 for the operation of the new terminal. The firm estimates that Route 27 currently allows passage of up to 2,165 people during rush hour. This needs to increase to an allowance of at least 3,685 people. Mott MacDonald recommends building a new highway in Alajuela to connect Pozòn and San Ramòn. Additionally train infrastructure to connect Orotina to San Jose, ideally near La Sabana Par, will be necessary.
“Our country builds its present and its future with responsibility and optimism.” – Luis Guillermo Solìs, President
HOW WILL SJO BE AFFECTED?
The Juan Santamaria Airport SJO) in Alajuela endured renovation and expansion this year. The terminal administrator alluded to a $100 million investment in coming years, including the expansion of the runway. Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura acknowledged that of the almost 3 million people entering Costa Rica in 2016, 70 percent arrived by air.
Today, SJO operates flights from 27 airlines to some 70 international connections.Once the new international terminal begins operating, Juan Santamarìa Airport will be used chiefly for local flights, and flights made by small aircrafts and jets. It would also act as an alternative in case of emergency situations.
“Air terminals are the main ports of entry to our country and for that reason we applaud this effort.” – Tourism Minister, Mauricio Ventura
THE LONG HAUL
According to the study, when the first stage is concluded the traffic estimated is 7.8 million passengers for the first year of operation. In twenty years this number could grow to 15.2 million people, perhaps even 20 million in 2047, and 50 million by the end of the century. The new airport would have the capacity to operate at least 38 flights per hour: 21 departures and 17 arrivals.
Once the airport is operating at full capacity it is expected to generate close to 80,000 direct, indirect, and related jobs. This could ultimately contribute $1.5 billion to the GNP, ironically the same amount of money initially paid to the Mott MacDonald firm for the Overall Design and Master Plan.
Mauricio Ventura applauds the New International Metropolitan Airport and reinforces that the project is supported by the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT). “ We will continue to grow as a first-class tourism destination. It (the airport) will provide the appropriate conditions to attract investment and the growth of exports.” he stated.
*New airport photos via Casa Presidencial*