Accessibility Still an Issue as AIFA Inauguration Approaches
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Accessibility Still an Issue as AIFA Inauguration Approaches

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María José Goytia By María José Goytia | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 02/23/2022 - 16:09

With just one month left before the official inauguration on March 21, users of the Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA) face issues arriving and departing from the airport terminal. Construction works, unfinished roads and heavy traffic complicate passenger transport.

So far, no access to the airport has been completed, even though there is more traffic than usual due to detours and obstructing construction machinery. Going by car will be the main option for passengers, since public transport options are not yet available.

The most direct route to AIFA starting from Mexico City is the Mexico-Pachuca toll highway. However, passengers would face at least an hour and a half drive from Mexico City’s downtown in a normal traffic scenario, plus a MX$58 (US$2.86) toll payment. This highway ranks second for the highest traffic flows in and out of Mexico City. Expansion works that aim to connect AIFA with the highway further complicate transportation. 

An alternative route that does not require tolls is the Mexico-Pachuca free highway, widely considered to be chaotic due to the at-times dangerous works to widen the road. Through this route, it takes more than 2 hours to get to AIFA from Mexico City. According to SEDENA's connectivity plan, these two roads will be the main routes for heavy cargo transportation to the new airport. For both options, road widening works are still in progress.

The junctions that the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (SICT) is building on both Mexico-Pachuca highways are not yet complete. Doubts have been raised about the on-time conclusion of construction works before the airport starts operations. According to workers interviewed by Latinus, works could be ready in June following an optimistic scenario without delays, two months after the official inauguration of the airport.

However, problems have already arisen. During the early morning hours of Feb. 11, three beams from an under-construction bridge on the Mexico-Pachuca highway collapsed. The 60-ton beams were supported by pieces of wood. The accident injured one driver, who was pinned in his truck after the girders fell on top of him. At the time of writing, no authority has claimed responsibility. Traffic cuts following the accident have further worsened mobility.

According to the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA), the main entrance to the airport will be at the western side of the complex. Here, only a traffic circle and the central avenues have been mostly completed. However, the Tultepec toll booth and the roads connecting these avenues with the Circuito Exterior Mexiquense (CEM) are incomplete. For SEDENA, CEM is the main road to access the airport. To get to AIFA through CEM, a passenger would pay MX$87 (US$4.28) and spend over an hour to get there. SEDENA also proposed a route further south that crosses Tonanitla. According to several news outlets, the work to complete the overpasses and connecting bridges of the 3 km road appear to be rushed, aside from delays caused by manifestations in Ojo de Agua involving the municipality’s inhabitants.

Public transportation alternatives to reach the airport have not been completed, such as a new branch of the Suburban Train coming from the existing Lecheria station and an extension of the Mexibus on the Mexico-Pachuca highway. Line 4 of the Mexibus, which runs from Indios Verdes to Tecamac, is still under design and is intended to be a transportation option for AIFA workers.

Private cab services such as Uber and Didi will only be allowed to take passengers to but not from AIFA, declared General Isidoro Pastor, Director of the AIFA project. As an alternative, General Pastor pointed toward an unknown company that will place buses and vans dedicated to the transfer of passengers, with prices ranging between MX$50 (US$2.46) and MX$150 (US$7.39) depending on the route.

State of Mexico Governor Alfredo del Mazo said the local government is working at full speed to have the new airport connected shortly after its inauguration. Meanwhile, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum informed that paving and signaling works continue in the capital to support more rapid mobility.

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