San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Liberia Airport Expansion Awaits Bid Approval

Thirty companies are in the running to construct a much-needed $19 million expansion of the DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste. The deadline for bid applications was March 13.

The project calls for the construction of a two-story, 13,500-square-meter terminal, which authorities are hoping will cut waiting times in half. They said the new terminal would allow the airport to accommodate an additional 600 passengers simultaneously and include four covered Jetways to board and unload them.

At present, the airport can handle only 900 passengers. During high season, many travelers have to sit or lie on the floor or outside the main terminal waiting for their flights.

Some of the companies interested include U.S. General Electric, SNC-Lavelin from Canada, Grupo Terra of Honduras and Costa Rica’s Grupo Café Britt. Bidding companies are required to have at least $5 million in capital and $10 million in cash flow.

The winning company, once the terminal is built and operating, will receive between $7 and $9 from each departing international passenger, part of the $26 departure tax levied by the government. The contract lasts from 20 to 25 years.

The bidding process slowed after an official complaint filed by one of the bidders, Guanacaste’s Nampakuti, in December. The company claimed the bid document was too vague and that the $500 price to acquire a copy was too high.

The Comptroller General’s Office investigated the complaint and found it to have no merit, spokeswoman Mónica Murillo said.

After all bids are received by March 13, the National Concessions Council has 45 business days to study them and make a recommendation to the Technical Council of the Civil Aviation Authority (CTAC), which then hands the matter off to President Oscar Arias’ office. The president then has 15 business days to decide, meaning the contract could be awarded by the middle of July and allow construction to move forward in time to reach the goal of a 2009 inauguration.

The airport has seen tremendous growth over the past eight years. According to the daily La Nación, the airport processed 359,255 passengers in 2006, a 508% increase from 2001.

Airport Director Analive Rosales declined to provide updated statistics on the airport’s operations in 2007 and 2008, citing a gag order from CTAC President Viviana Martín.

The airport, eight kilometers west of Liberia, is named after former president Daniel Oduber (1970-74). Oduber, a strong supporter of rural development, championed the idea of an airport in Guanacaste.


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