More than a modernization

MIA’s $6.3 billion capital improvement program nears completion

MIAMI — Since the late 1990s, Miami International Airport’s capital improvement program (CIP) has been one of the largest redevelopment efforts underway at a U.S. airport. With the completion of a fourth runway, the development of two passenger terminals, and the realization of an aggressive cargo facility development program, the gateway airport’s CIP has encompassed all aspects of airport operations. Now, as officials gear up for the culmination of the decade-long plus program, director José Abreu sits with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss the challenges involved.

The primary objectives for MIA’s multi-year capital improvement program (CIP), as laid out by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners (BCC) are as follows:
• Enhance efficiency and safety;
• Reduce delays;
• Maximize non-aeronautical revenues;
• Modernize the facilities;
• Support the needs of airline carriers;
• Increase air cargo activity;
• Accommodate changes in the aircraft fleet mix;
• And to complete a multitude of infrastructure and environmental support projects at Miami International and the general aviation airports within the Miami-Dade Aviation System.

Handling more than 33 million passengers and two million tons of cargo annually, MIA is among the nation’s busiest international and cargo airports, and continues to be Florida’s leading international gateway, handling some 70 percent of the state’s arrivals from abroad — more than all the other airports in Florida combined.

Often touted as Latin America’s gateway to the U.S., MIA’s redevelopment was necessary to accommodate the airport’s forecasted passenger and cargo growth, explains Abreu, director of both Miami International and the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.

Among projects completed and in use, the field’s fourth runway, an 8,600-foot strip completed in 2003, increased MIA’s airfield capacity by 25 percent, “A huge improvement,” in terms of reducing the cost of delays, relates Abreu. The airport’s newest passenger terminals, of which one is complete (South Terminal) and the other nearing completion (North Terminal), add more than 4 million square feet of space to MIA’s original 3.5 million square feet.

The airport’s cargo facility development program has also been completed, adding more than 2.7 million square feet in 17 new buildings. Additional completions include several new taxiways, expanded parking, a central collection plaza, additional lanes at the upper and lower terminal drives, subsurface utilities infrastructure, and a new international general aviation center.

According to Abreu, the airport’s construction payout for 2009 averaged more than $40 million per month, employing some 1,400 construction workers. Still in development are portions of the North Terminal and an elevated people mover system, aptly dubbed the MIA Mover. The MIA Mover will connect the airport to a consolidated rental car facility, the first major component of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Miami Intermodal Center (MIC).

An advantage to managing such a large development program is Abreu’s background as a licensed professional engineer and certified engineering contractor. Prior to his appointment as aviation director in 2005, Abreu served as secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) under Jeb Bush. In that capacity, he oversaw all FDOT operations, including seven districts and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise encompassing 7,500 employees and an annual budget of $9 billion.

Remarks Abreu, “I think the leaders in this area realized that the critical path of this airport was the CIP. There’s nothing worse than having a long-term debt and nothing to show for it. So they said … let’s try an engineer for a change.

“Frankly, I think what got me this job was the fact that I worked 21 years with FDOT; if you look at the work program in a given year for FDOT, this CIP is actually larger than all of the state’s construction put together, which I used to oversee.”

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