Concourse to be closed after new terminal is opened
By Charlotte Libov
Airlines and travelers will lose 17 gates at Miami International Airport's North Terminal for two to three years as aviation officials hope to speed up renovation work and rein in its budget, said John Cosper, deputy director of the airport's capital improvement project.
He said new gates will be opened at the new South Terminal by the time the North Terminal gates are closed.
"It's not a final decision yet, but we are moving ahead to mothball Concourse A in the summer of 2007," he said. "We think that in the scheme of things, this will save two years in construction and $2 million."
Aviation Director José Abreu is scheduled to brief Miami-Dade County Commission's Regional Transportation Committee on the plan Oct. 3, he said.
Closing Concourse A would enable airport officials to move a security fence so construction crews could work on the apron, where planes would normally be, and avoid twice-daily trips through security that have slowed work.
"It's a controversial proposal," Mr. Cosper said. "You're shutting down new gates that are really nice. But we're going to preserve it so that it's as good as it was."
The North Terminal is the costliest part of the $5.2 billion airport project. Work at the South Terminal is almost completed, and officials expect a temporary certificate of occupancy Feb. 19, with an opening date expected sometime in March, Mr. Cosper said.
Gates in the North Terminal cannot be closed until the South Terminal is open, Mr. Cosper said.
Work on the North Terminal has been riddled with delays and cost overruns, often attributed to a necessity to keep the terminal fully operational while work is ongoing. The project isn't expected to be completed until 2012 if part of the terminal isn't closed.
County officials took control of the project from American Airlines last summer. "We're still struggling," said Mr. Cosper. "When we took it over, the completion date was 2012. We're trying to bring it back to 2010."
A temporary closing of gates in the North Terminal had been considered earlier, Mr. Cosper said, but "there were a million reasons why we couldn't do it." The idea surfaced again recently and, with the impending opening of the South Terminal, seemed feasible, he said.
At the Oct. 3 meeting, airport officials will discuss a redesign of the North Terminal to eliminate some costly design elements. But Mr. Cosper said all of the airport's major new features will be retained and most of the cost savings would come from finishing the project earlier.
"This is not going to be easy," Mr. Cosper said. "We have a lot of aircraft operations to keep control of, and we need to make sure everyone has a gate. But this is a sacrifice we're making. And when we're done, we'll have a world-class airport."