SIGNATURE AIRPORT Miami Airport plans to be a landmark gateway to Latin America. (Photo courtesy of Michael Goodman for ENR)

Uncertainty buffeted Miami International Airport's $6.1-billion capital expansion plans with hurricane-like force in 2002 as passenger traffic waned and American Airlines faced possible bankruptcy. But the skies are clearing-or rather filling up again as air traffic revives-and airport officials are moving ahead with a trimmed-down program of $4.8 billion that will include intermodal connections and two new terminals.

"For the next two years, $50 million a month will be spent on construction," says Narinder S. Jolly, assistant aviation director for MIA. Before 9/11, the airport estimated that it would handle 48 million passengers a year by 2010. Now that figure has been revised to 37 million, resulting in a $600-million cut, says Jolly. That has postponed construction improvements to the central terminal, two existing concourses, a parking garage and a connecting road.

LEADERS Jolly(left) and Gittens keep the airport program going. (Photo courtesy of Michael Goodman for ENR)

Despite revised traffic figures, "we're experiencing delays up to 45 minutes at peak hours," says Jolly. And the airport expects at least two airlines to start using a new jumbo aircraft manufactured by Airbus, the A-380, before the end of this decade. That means "building flexibility in the interiors of concourses" for dual loading bridges that can handle up to 700 passengers per A-380 flight, Jolly says.

The key to growth lies in international traffic. "We have the most international to international connections in the country," says Angela Gittens, Miami-Dade County aviation director. "It's who we are." With a growing Latin-Caribbean American market, MIA's new terminals are designed to improve connections for those passengers. "We have an advantage in our location...but we will lose that edge if we don't fix that problem," Gittens says. To fix it, enclosed passageways are being built throughout the terminals so that the concourses are connected on the secured airside, says Jolly.

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American Airlines, climbing back to pre-9/11 figures with almost 400 daily flights, now is pushing ahead with a $1.7-billion north terminal. The 8.5-million- sq-ft building will have federal inspection facilities that can process 3,600 passengers per hour-double that at existing terminals, says Jolly. Some $300 million in contracts are to be awarded this year, with a completion date of 2007.

The south terminal will have three federal inspection stations with a capacity to handle 2,000 passengers per hour. The new south terminal is a five-story...