County commissioner says he would support a downsizing of terminal plans
By Charlotte Libov
The chairman of Miami-Dade County's regional transportation committee says he will support downsizing the North Terminal project at Miami International Airport to get it completed sooner without more cost overruns.
"We need to differentiate between what we need and what we want," said County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez.
"The North Terminal keeps me up at night," Mr. Giminez said to Aviation Director José Abreu at a meeting of the transportation committee last week.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We need to look to keep the expenses of the terminal project down," Mr. Gimenez said after the meeting.
Mr. Abreu has said he plans to present a redesign of the project when the commission meets in September. Bids for major portions of planned renovations were significantly over budget.
American Airlines formerly managed construction of the terminal, but county commissioners voted last summer to take control, citing cost overruns and other problems. The county awarded the project to Parsons-Odebrecht, a joint venture building the airport's South Terminal.
Work is going well on the South Terminal, a new facility, according to airport officials. But the work on the North Terminal, which must remain operational while it is being renovated, has been problematic.
Several commissioners at the committee meeting voiced concerns about the North Terminal.
"I agree that the South Terminal is on the right track, but I'm concerned about the North Terminal," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said. "We need to do an evaluation to make sure what is needed. I think you are raising a flag, and I appreciate that, and I know that my colleagues do, too,"
John Cosper, the county's director for airport improvement projects, after the meeting downplayed the significance of a redesign.
"I wouldn't look for humongous changes in the project but for changes to make it easier, faster and cheaper to build by eliminating things we don't need," he said.
"These 'nice-to-have' features are very expensive and time-consuming. They affect the schedule negatively. It was being pushed out to the year 2012 range, and we are trying to put it back into the 2010 range," Mr. Cosper said.
Some smaller contracts have been awarded or are being negotiated, he said. But the two largest parts of the project will go out for bid again after the terminal is redesigned, he said. In the meantime, bids may go out for work on the large parts of the project on a time and materials basis so terminal construction can continue, he said.
The project is being reviewed to determine which features are necessary and which should be eliminated, Mr. Cosper said.
"There's a ramp that goes from the second to the first level in Concourse B. It's a very nice feature. The ramp spirals down at a gentle slope so baggage carts can go down it. It's beautiful, and it creates a whole different feeling in the building. The alternative would be a large bank of elevators, which are significantly less expensive than the ramp because it requires a major structural change of the building," he said.
He said large, open shafts cut from the ground floor that hold skylights "that enable you to see from one level to another" could be eliminated. "It's a beautiful architectural feature but a major construction cost."