Miami International Airport's $205 million baggage system needs backup: former system gets upgrades
By Ashley Hopkins
Miami International Airport's 10-mile, $205 million automated baggage system may get $2.275 million pricier as the county works to repair its predecessor, upping an outside contract to more than triple its original level.
While the original agreement between Miami-Dade and URS Corporation Southern was for $4.73 million, in December 2009 the county commission received reports of substantial delays on completion of the first two phases, which included installation, oversight and testing of the north terminal baggage handling system.
In response to the delays, the commission reallocated $8 million in unused and uncommitted North Terminal Development funds to contractors to cover cost overruns. According to county documents, the county has negotiated all delays with building and civil contractors and the $15 million project should wrap up around November.
Contractors entering the third and final phase are now working to test the system, which is one of the world's few baggage systems to transport luggage directly from ticket counters to gates.
If the commission approves the adjustment July 7, the $2.275 million amendment will be used to complete the project and also to repair the former baggage system, known as Big Bertha.
According to county documents, "since the transfer of American Airlines operations to Concourse E gates after the closure of Concourse A, Big Bertha has been extensively utilized to support international operations. With age and use it has been in constant need of repair."
As "having just one large system did not provide the redundancy factor necessary for major airline hub operations," county transportation officials recommended that contractors replace Big Bertha with two smaller conveyors.
While the $2.275 amendment is high on the commission's agenda July 7, it's also to act on several airport operations bells and whistles.
The commission might order administrators to study having an outside firm offer electric cart service at Miami International. The carts would be available both within and between terminals to transport passengers for a fee.
According to county documents, "private companies might be willing to pay the county for the opportunity to provide electric cart service... and the airport might receive further economic benefit from such cars, to the extent the county was able to sell advertising space."
If the study were ordered, administrators would get 180 days to report results.
The commission is also to consider a study of upping the number of luggage carts available for passengers. According to county documents, "additional luggage carts in the pre- and post-security portions of Miami-Dade International Airport could assist seniors and disabled passengers and help improve the airport experiences for travelers."
If approved, the administration would have 90 days to report back to the commission.
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