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Construction announced for new international airport in Orotina

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Written by Marisol
WAYRA Instituto de Español

By Tamarindo News Staff  Photo courtesy: Casa Presidencial

  • Operation expected to open in 2027
  • Investment of $2.974 million

For some time, the exponential growth of Costa Rica’s tourism and its accompanying businesses, including foreign investment, have shown the need for a third international airport that would guarantee operations via strategic channels.

Now, Costa Rican government officials have announced that they have received the Overall Design and Masterplan for the New Metropolitan Airport of Costa Rica, from Mott MacDonald Limited, which is a global management, engineering and development consultancy. The firm has over 100 years experience and 180 branches in 140 countries and has provided aviation advisory services in Heathrow (Hong Kong) and Singapore, considered world-class airports based on passenger services and efficiency.

This first document contains 2,829 pages with 24 technical studies, created by approximately 120 professionals.

The study confirms that the New International Metropolitan Airport of Costa Rica is financially viable via a public-private alliance that would cover the total cost of the investment, given that the State does not have the required resources.

The first stage would have an investment of $1.932 million and the total project cost would be $2.974 million, from data based in 2017.

According to President Luis Guillermo Solís, the new international airport represents the end of a long period of submitted proposals that has concluded now with the project´s master plan, basic design, and financial prefeasibility studies.

The airport is expected to start operating in 2027. Solís described the proposal as solid given that it includes studies on geotechnical and seismicity, hydrologics, wind and environments, acoustics, roads and accesses, as well as socio-economics that determined that the Orotina location presented the best characteristics for secure and efficient operation of aircraft.

The study by Mott MacDonald offers a flexible route that includes options and stages so that the demand for passengers and cargo will then determine schedules, execution and speed of the investment stages.

In addition, further expansion stages are proposed to be developed after 5, 10 and more than 20 years from the start of operations. According to Government authorities, by mid-2016, in all the country, 5.3 million passengers traveled by air.

According to registries, as of 2015 there was important growth, consolidated in 2016, with increases of more than 15% in Juan Santamaría as well as in Liberia airports. The growth is linked with tourism and the increase of European airlines that now offer direct services.

“If Costa Rica wants to stay competitive in these areas and explore other markets like meeting and wellness tourism, the country must expand its capacity. The new airport estimates handling 7.8 million passengers per year when it starts operating in 2027; in 20 years this number should grow to 15.2 million. Once the airport is operating to full capacity, it could assist 50 million passengers,” explained Government authorities.

With this infrastructure, Costa Rica could become the sustainable air travel development center for Central America. Air transport is growing faster than 4% in this millennium, but Central America is doing so above this level.

The industry is expecting significant growth for the next 20-30 years. An important part of this traffic are transfers, mainly in Panama and El Salvador, which is the reason why Costa Rica must now deeply explore the country’s development with appropriate infrastructure.

The new airport would be built following sustainability criteria and integrating technologies suitable for efficient operation.

“The studies made did not find excessive difficulties from environmental and connectivity points of view. This allows a development in which the construction and the investments may consider different alternatives to be decided in the stage of final design according to the most appropriate technology of the moment,” said the President’s press release.

Airport will require new investments in the country’s road infrastructure In order for the operation of the new airport to be possible and successful, investments in roads such as the extension of Route 27, the construction of the Western Highway interconnection corridor, the improvements of routes 131, 137, 622, 713, 755 and 756 and plans for investment for the rail roads are required.

This will allow both employees and airport users to commute without collapsing land access roads. Additionally, it is proposed that the urban development of the area encourage planning to balance the development of the airport with that of the nearby regions.

Project expected to generate 80,000 new jobs The construction of the airport is expected to create approximately 80,000 direct, indirect and incentive jobs.

This does not mean just local jobs, but also a variety of other opportunities. It is estimated that the activity generated by these jobs will be equivalent to a Gross Domestic product generated by air transport equivalent to $1.5 billion a year.

The study had an investment of $1.8 million from contributions in existing member states in COCESNA, the regional entity in charge of navigability and air safety in Central América.

Orotina: ideal location

The study confirmed that the areas of Mastate, Ceiba and Coyolar in the county of Orotina are viable for the development of this project. The choice of location and orientation of plans are determined by taking into account wind studies, topography, land availability, terrain, flight procedures, environmental factors, acoustic impingement, as well as access and territorial developments around the new airport terminal.

According to the experts of Mott MacDonald, Orotina presents unique opportunities for the development of the project that enhance connectivity through infrastructure between ports and airports, as well as economic, urban and tourist areas. It is a site that is almost at sea level which generates aeronautical and commercial advantages allowing the planes to take off with more payload and to reach more distant destinations.

It is one of the few places that remain in the country with flat terrain, without natural obstacles like mountains. In addition, it does not have high-rise construction and has a good climate.

The site and surrounding areas are mainly composed of pastures for livestock, crops, housing and other farm activities. The environmental fragility is low and very low –the study says– because of the involvement of human activities in the area.

The Tivives Mangrove will not be affected, given its location. “Costa Rica has already demonstrated that it has the strength to break paradigms in innovation, tourism, attraction of investments and public infrastructure.

That is what we are pushing, by laying the groundwork for the new airport of the 21st Century, and even beyond.

This takes into account the conditions required to undertake a project of this magnitude. Our country builds its present and its future with responsibility and optimism,” said the President of the Republic Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera at the presentation of the study.

The master plan explains that the project will be divided into three stages: the first stage will be the passenger terminals, two airstrips and an access route that will take users to the terminal through the airport city and will be 128,000 square meters.

Both the second (146,000 square meters) and the third stages (186,000 square meters) involve extensions to all the different areas, the passenger terminals, the airstrips, the airport city along with all the other support areas that are part of the project.

“Costa Rica is a very competitive destination in terms of tourism. We have witnessed the arrival of new airlines and the increase in the number of visitors. Due to this, the strengthening of the tourist infrastructure that will materialize with the new International Metropolitan Airport is a project that the Costa Rica Tourism Board applauds. It represents a guarantee that we will continue to grow as a first-class tourism destination and will provide the appropriate conditions to attract investment and the growth of exports,” said Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism.

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