Behind the art-decorated walls along Miami-Dade International Airport’s mile-long north terminal, construction workers are building at a feverish pace the last major piece of an overall $6.2-billion capital improvement program. After a decade that saw delays and disputes, the team hired to build the stalled $3-billion terminal expansion expects an on-time delivery next year, with no major claims.

The renovated and expanded north terminal (above) is almost complete, with almost 4 million sq ft of space. A people mover also is nearing completion.
photo: Courtesy of POVJ
The renovated and expanded north terminal (above) is almost complete, with almost 4 million sq ft of space. A people mover also is nearing completion (below).
The renovated and expanded north terminal (above) is almost complete, with almost 4 million sq ft of space. A people mover also is nearing completion(top).
Photo: Courtesy Of POVJ

Work on the 50-gate terminal began in 2001, with main tenant American Airlines as the manager and a joint venture of Turner Construction Co. and Austin Commercial as construction manager. But after numerous problems, American agreed to turn the job over to the Miami-Dade County Aviation Dept. A local joint venture of Parsons Transportation Group and Odebrecht USA (POJV) won the rebid $542-million CM contract. The team inherited a chaotic site, recalls Gilberto Nieves, Odebrecht USA chief executive officer. “The subcontractors said, ‘We don’t want to touch it,’ ” Nieves says.

But the contractor drew upon its own existing relationships with subcontractors as well as an educational program that included topics such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, claims avoidance and safety. Those meetings attracted participants like Eloise Gonzalez, founder of Commercial Interior Contractors Corp., Miami, which holds a $9-million general construction services contract. “Without POJV’s help I would have never been able to participate [in] a project of this magnitude,” she says.

Neil Hall, principal with the Hall Group, Miami, which holds a $1-million quality-control inspection services contract, adds, “The speakers were quite knowledgeable. The good thing is that they are your peers on the project, and you can easily follow up with them.”

POVJ expects next year to open the last six gates and a 400,000-sq-ft federal inspection facility, which is wedged between the existing terminal and the active airfield, says Lucas Prado, Odebrecht project executive. Construction is ramping down to $15 million a month from, in 2008, $30 million a month as the team clears major milestones. In July, it reopened 16 of 50 gates at the now 3.6-million-sq-ft terminal. In September, a mile-long, four-station automated people mover will begin operations.

The city required that a half-dozen local architects be hired for the new terminal design, which made interfacing challenging, says David Leverenz, Parsons vice president. “We had 19 other projects on top of the architectural pieces,” he adds. Moreoever, the team carefully had to identify every existing utility in the terminal for relocation or work-around during expansion. Some 2,000 locations were tagged, says Levernez.

POJV also has a $259-million design-build contract for a 1.3-mile people mover and 41,000-sq-ft airport station linking to the new Miami Intermodal Center. That system also will be completed next year.

The people mover will carry two tracks on a 1.27-mile-long precast-concrete elevated guideway about 40 ft above grade. The guideway snakes through the airport space, packed with facilities and utilities, and crosses just inches above a toll plaza.

“We had a 100-ton crane that just ‘walked’ everywhere,” says Brad Rinzler, Odebrecht senior project manager. The airport now will face years of repaying debt, but officials note that, last month, it received bond ratings of A. MIA’s passenger traffic has grown 4% through the first half of the year compared to 2009, and freight volume has grown 26.5% year to date. The county-owned airport is considering other revenue-making opportunities, such as rock mining.