The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners has given the green light to a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that will fund up to US$5 billion in modernisation projects for Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida’s biggest airport and the USA’s ‘gateway to the Americas’
The funding programme covers projects that are expected to extend over the next five to 15 years and which are seen as necessary to accommodate the airport’s projected growth in passenger and cargo traffic – forecast to reach 77 million passengers and more than 4 million tons of air freight a year by 2040.
In 2018, MIA handled more than 45 million passengers for the first time – an increase of nearly a million over the previous year. Approximately 21.8 million of these were international passengers, making it the third-busiest US gateway for international travel.
MIA is also the busiest US airport for international freight. It handled a new record of 2.3 million total tons of freight last year – up 60,000 tons from its 2017 total.
Miami-Dade County’s mayor, Carlos Gimenez, is a big fan of the proposed modernisation programme. “MIA is Miami-Dade County’s leading economic engine and busiest gateway, generating nearly US$31 billion in business revenue and welcoming 96% of all visitors to our community,” he reflects.
“The goal of this new capital programme is for MIA to provide even greater value, convenience and efficiency to our visitors, airline partners and cargo operators.”
Lester Sola, MIA’s CEO, calls this project “the next chapter in the transformation of MIA”. The plan is said to “address all of the airport’s future capacity and operational needs” through five individual ‘sub-programmes’ that take in:
- A redevelopment of Central Terminal concourses E and F
- An expanded South Terminal (concourses H and J)
- Two new hotels (one of which will include a business and conference centre with exhibition space) and other miscellaneous landside projects
- Renovated Concourse D gates to accommodate additional wide- and narrowbody aircraft, as well as larger regional jets
- Expanded aircraft parking positions and warehouses for cargo operations
According to the proposal from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) that has received the go-ahead from the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners, the CIP’s various capital projects would enable MIA to “maintain its global gateway status and further elevate its competitive edge over other large gateways nationwide”.
It declares: “In order for the County to continue to effectively grow MIA’s cargo volumes as well as its number of new international passenger airlines, domestic and international trade routes, it is necessary to construct improvements throughout the County’s airport system, but predominantly to MIA’s terminals, cargo operations, airside and landside facilities.”
It adds: “Without these improvements, the County will not be able to pave the way for future growth and compete with other large gateway airports in the decades to come.”
The current cost estimate for the programme ranges between $4 and $5 billion, with the budget to depend in part on business revenues raised from future development projects and the federal grants offered to MDAD.
The five sub-programmes outlined above will involve construction of new infrastructure during a period of five to 15 years out to 2035 incorporate the plans previously known as the airport’s Terminal Optimization Program (TOP). They take in new designs on airside, landside, cargo and terminal developments.
The CIP as a whole has been structured to facilitate the ‘phasing in’ and ‘phasing out’ of various capital projects in order to allow adjustments for emerging airline needs and to allow for the maximum possible use of MIA during the construction process.
With regard to airside development at MIA, the main aspects of the CIP plan take in:
- Renovation of the Central Terminal to allow for direct access to all gates
- Expansion of the South Terminal that will see the addition of three new aircraft gates and expansion of the apron to provide parking space for three widebodied aircraft
- The Gate Optimization Project at the North Terminal will see the existing gate configuration modified to incorporate several gates designed for larger aircraft types. American Airlines (AA) has informed MDAD of its plan to upgrade its fleet and retire its B767s from operations at MIA, and the Gate Optimization Project will update the aircraft parking plan between Gates D14 and D37 to accept larger widebody aircraft, including the B777-300. The North Terminal frontage will be optimised for a modified AA fleet beyond 2022
- Also at the North terminal, the Gate D60 Project will see that gate renovated to accommodate larger regional jets of AA’s American Eagle airline, as well as narrowbodied aircraft
- In terms of cargo, the western side of MIA, which handles most of the gateway’s freight, will also be modernised and expanded. Taxiway R will be extended, for example, while the ramp area will also be expanded