Alterra: Airport Expansion Will Restart in January

December 16, 2005

THE more than $100 million expansion of Juan Santamaría International Airport, northwest of San José, will soon restart after nearly three years on hold, airport operator Alterra Partners announced Saturday.

 

In a demonstration of what the company called “good faith,” Alterra investors and financers have approved the restart of airport renovation for January, when the necessary construction equipment and personnel will arrive, according to a statement from Alterra.

 

Officials hope to begin with construction of the new terminal, in an effort to avoid affecting travel in the airport during the December-May tourism high season.

 

In April, work could begin on additional boarding gates and a new ramp, although the official timeline has not been set.

 

The approval to restart construction comes despite the fact that Alterra’s contract with the government to operate and renovate the airport still lacks “financial equilibrium,” according to the Alterra statement.

 

Alterra and the Costa Rican government have been in a contract dispute since March 2003 regarding the airport’s financing. Over the past year, the two entities negotiated a contract addendum that they agreed returns financial equilibrium to the project. However, the addendum must still be approved by the Comptroller General.

 

Although Alterra officials and Minister of Public Works and Transport Randall Quirós said the airport renovation would not begin until that final approval was given, the comptroller announced Nov. 28 that Alterra had 10 days to get the massive renovation project under way.

 

The comptroller’s order was based on a court’s decision that lack of financial resources was not a justifiable reason to stop construction (TT, Dec. 2).

 

Airport renovation has been halted since 2003, when, as a result of the contract dispute, the international lending institutions financing the project suspended the final $30 million of Alterra’s $120 million loan until the dispute was resolved.

 

Representatives of the international banks were in San José last week and, following meetings with government representatives, announced their support for restarting renovation immediately (TT, Dec. 9).

The contract addendum is expected to be formally sent to the comptroller for approval this week.

 

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