Mexico City airport terminal sinking and at risk of collapse: López Obrador
Airport authorities have built makeshift solutions to the problems, such as ramps between buildings that have become uneven, but experts say serious intervention is needed.
MEXICO CITY (CN) — Serious structural flaws threaten the viability of a terminal at Mexico City International Airport and could require reinforcements or total reconstruction, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
A group of experts has already assessed the structures of Terminal 2 at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City and their findings will be released next week, the president said during his morning press conference on Wednesday.
The airport was built on the dry bed of what was once Lake Texcoco, an area of loose, clay-rich subsoil that presents challenges for architects and structural engineers. Like much of Mexico City, Terminal 2 sinks into the Earth.
“In addition to the poor quality of the ground, they did not lay the proper foundations,” said López Obrador. “What we have to do is [figure out] how to avoid a collapse and disasters. One possibility is to rebuild it.
While some have accused López Obrador of trying to cast a negative light on Benito Juárez airport in order to improve public opinion about the new airport at the Santa Lucía military base north of the capital, Wednesday’s announcement seems to be substantial.
“It may sound like a stretch, but it’s not,” said Fernando Gómez Suárez, independent airport infrastructure specialist.
“There are parts of Terminal 2 that have sunk up to three or four feet. It’s been gradual, sinking about four to eight inches a year, and it’s been unnoticeable until now, when it can’t be hidden anymore,” he said.
Since its inauguration in November 2007, airport authorities have attempted to compensate for the disjointed sections of the terminal with ramps, sheet metal and other structural dressings. The problem, however, is not going anywhere and extreme measures may be required.
“It was poorly designed,” Gómez said. “Every engineer should be able to see the problems underground. The company that won the government contract to build it did not lay enough foundations to support such buildings.
Built under the presidency of Vicente Fox and inaugurated after his successor Felipe Calderón took office, Terminal 2 was built by the Mexican construction company ICA. Unlike Terminal 1, which was built at the initiative of the private sector in 1958, Terminal 2 was built as a public work, with a contract awarded to ICA.
“That can tell us something about where the problem came from,” Gómez said.
The CIA did not immediately respond to Courthouse News’ request for comment.
The dressing solutions that Gómez was talking about are quite apparent in Terminal 2. While the ramps between the entrances and the taxi and private vehicle pick-up area are modest and may not stand out to people in a hurry, passengers have directed towards the adjoining bus station gives a clear view of the evolution of the terminal since the day of the inauguration.
“When I started working here eight and a half years ago, there was only one step between these two levels, now there are four”, says an airport employee who preferred not to not give his name for fear of reprisals from management.
He and others working at the time of the September 2017 earthquake that shook the terminal were forced to hand over their phones to ensure they deleted all photos and videos of how the event took place. affected structures, the employee said.
A vertical distance of nearly four feet now separates the air terminal floor from the bus station floor.
“Even here, it was at ground level before the pandemic,” he said, pointing to a smaller ramp about a foot in height connecting the ground to the landing of the makeshift metal ramp that allows the access between the two levels.
Other danger signs mentioned by López Obrador during his press conference abound at the terminal. Metal struts stapled to the walls of vehicle ramps look like oversized stitches. Two-inch-wide jagged cracks slip between sections of the structure. The walkways in the rotunda garden, broken from where they once connected to the outer ring, reveal how the ground has collapsed more than a meter since they were built. Pipes once buried, now broken, hang in the air.
Gómez wouldn’t speculate on what the expert panel might recommend, but said the problem has become very serious and will require some kind of intervention in the near future.
“When you do things right, things work out well,” he said. “You can even build a track on the ocean. Engineering and architecture are available to build even in lakeside locations like Texcoco, but something went wrong with Terminal 2, and now we’re seeing the consequences.
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