(Adds president’s quote, number of runways, cost of airport)
MEXICO CITY, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Mexico plans a new $9.15 billion international airport which will eventually handle 120 million passengers a year, quadrupling the congested current hub’s capacity, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Tuesday.
In his annual state-of-the-nation address, Pena Nieto said the new Mexico City airport would have six runways, as Reuters reported in June, up from the two the current airport has. It could eventually surpass the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, Georgia, which handled over 94 million passengers last year.
Pena Nieto said he would present on Wednesday the airport plan, which aims to ease delays at the current hub, the Benito Juarez International Airport.
Pena Nieto did not say how quickly the airport would reach its targeted capacity, nor when construction would begin. The current hub handled 31.5 million passengers in 2013.
Without a new airport, the government is concerned Mexico may lose competitiveness.
“The current saturation restricts communication within the country, limits Mexico’s connectivity to the world, restrains trade and investment, and creates delays for users,” Pena Nieto said at an event in Mexico City.
“We cannot keep postponing a serious solution,” he added.
Equipped with five runways, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has been the busiest airport in the world for over a decade, according to Airports Council International data.
The plan follows an attempt to build a new airport near the chosen site under former President Vicente Fox which met with violent protests, leading to its cancellation in 2002.
Armed with machetes and Molotov cocktails, demonstrators took 19 officials hostage after the government initially offered locals around 70 cents per square yard for land.
This time around the government has said the airport will be located next to the current hub on the eastern flank of Mexico City, where the government already owns land. (Reporting by Simon Gardner and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Dave Graham, Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)