President Juan Manuel Santos announced Wednesday plans to expand the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, which seeks to increase the current capacity of 50 operations per hour and 27 million passengers per year, to 90 operations per hour and approximately 40 million passengers annually by 2021.
The president attended the kickoff of the effort to increase the operational capacity of El Dorado with the Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras, Minister of Transport, Natalia Abello; Aerocivil Director, Gustavo Alberto Lenis; the President of the National Infrastructure Agency, Luis Fernando Andrade, and directors of concessionaires operating in the main air terminal.
He recalled that despite the difficulties experienced during the first phase of expansion of El Dorado, it was delivered successfully and the administration immediately began talking about new projects to meet future demand for passengers and cargo.
“And since then, four years ago we were already thinking about how we were going to expand the airport and increasingly, thinking big, more like what we have done with our other infrastructure,” he said.
Santos said that in the next two years, the government will undertake projects in 39 airports in 20 different departments, costing 2.8 billion pesos—not including major works in airports like those serving the cities of Barranquilla and Cali.
He explained that Colombia has a great opportunity to further benefit economically from growth in the tourism sector, by ensuring that the airports meet the growing demand for services.
The President noted that the El Dorado airport works are an important step “in the design of an increasingly competitive country…,the competition is tougher and therefore we must always be a step ahead and not a step behind to bring more investment, to generate more employment and more well-being.”
He stressed that what was seen Wednesday in the capital’s terminal “also will be repeated in many more airports, because it is not only El Dorado. We are making huge efforts in many other airports in major cities, an investment of nearly 3 billion pesos, 2.8 billion.”
In addition to the expansion and renovation of El Dorado, the administration also announced that plans were underway for an expansion of the current airport, located in Salitre, Bogota, to a second location, perhaps connected by train or tram, in Facatativa, just west of the capital city, and that the second part of the airport – El Dorado 2, could be operating in as little as 5 years.
If this goes forward, Bogotá would in some respects be following the example set by Medellin, which added a second, larger and modern airport, 40 minutes outside of the city in the exurb of Rionegro, and turning the older Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport into a general aviation and domestic regional airport.
At the same ceremony, President Santos referred to the large investments being made in infrastructure throughout Colombia.
“This morning the Vice President explained how the green light was given to a project in Buenaventura, the largest port between Mulaló and Loboguerrero that will improve the country’s competitiveness. So one can go around the country, [naming] works that are being put in place. ”
Similarly, Santos outlined the main aviation projects being developed through the rest of Colombia.
“I will give some examples: in Barranquilla, airport investment will be 350 billion pesos. They are going to repave the entire runway, and they are going to remodel the entire passenger terminal, an airport that today is a good airport, is going to be an airport comparable to any airport worldwide,” he said.
Santos also stated that “in Cali, investment will be 234 billion pesos, to increase the number of gates and expand the passenger terminal, among other works.”
As for the capital of Chocó, he added that “there will be an airport fit for a good city like Quibdo, right now they don’t have one.”
“Two weeks ago, I told the Chocoanos that even the President could not travel on his plane to Quibdo (the capital city of Chocó) because the airport does meet the appropriate standards. Let’s make the airport—not only the airport, but other development in Quibdo around the airport, that will generate economic dynamics, create jobs and a great economic benefits. That investment is going to be 180 billion pesos,” said Santos.
The President went on to say that in “the other extreme, in the Amazon, [the airport serving the border city of] Leticia will get investment of 143 billion pesos. Imagine what that means for an airport in Leticia? What we are making is an enormous effort to elevate the level and quality of our infrastructure. Not just the highways, we emphasize the highways because that’s the greatest investment in our history, perhaps the most ambitious infrastructure project in all of America, taking place right now, in Colombia.”
“Since the first stage of the fourth generation (4G) highway concessions, totaling about 12 billion pesos, is already contracted and being executed, Colombia will see construction work over the next three or four years everywhere.” He said the second wave of 4G highway concessions have already been contracted.
”Dr. Juan Martín, I believe, is a witness: We have done all of this in a way that I believe has no complaints from any of the bidders or contractors, with regards to the transparency in the awarding of these monumental works. We have taken this care from the beginning so that nobody would have the slightest doubt about the transparency with which these works were awarded.”
President Santos announced his desire that the highway construction continues at a pace of at least 300km per year (2 lanes each way), a rate he said that Spain maintained at the height of their public works boom roughly a decade ago.
Headline photograph: President Santos in Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport, flanked by 2 airport employees. Photo credit: Efraín Herrera