Engineers back completion of new Mexico City airport

MEXICO CITY, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A top engineering association on Wednesday backed the completion of Mexico City’s new airport, a $13 billion project which President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has threatened to scrap, arguing it is too expensive and tainted by corruption.

Lopez Obrador said last month his government would either finish the hub, or expand a military base north of the capital, depending on the results of a public consultation due in October and a review by engineering experts.

Ascension Medina Nieves, president of Mexico’s college of civil engineers (CICM), told a news conference that on the basis of the available information, the only “feasible, viable and reliable solution” was to continue with the new airport.

Although the opinion of the CICM is not the final word on the airport, its backing is a step in favor of the project.

Medina was presenting the college’s findings alongside incoming transport minister Javier Jimenez Espriu, who like Lopez Obrador has been skeptical of the ambitious new hub.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office in December, had at first pushed for the new airport to be abandoned during the election campaign, saying the project had been marred by corruption, and would cost too much to maintain in future years due to its difficult geological terrain.

However, he has since moderated his position, and top business groups are increasingly confident the new airport will go ahead. A significant amount of work has been completed on the hub and ditching it could waste billions of dollars.

The future of the airport has become a litmus test of the president-elect’s economic pragmatism and his relations with business leaders who have strongly backed the existing project, the biggest public works plan underway in Mexico.

The planned terminal for the new airport was designed by British architect Norman Foster and the son-in-law of influential Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, whose family is also co-building and co-financing the hub. (Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Richard Pullin)