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Just a few months ago, the Houston Airport System (HASDC) took over administration of San José’s Juan Santamaria International Airport. The switch was made in the wake of many mistakes, delays and mismanagement, forcing Alterra Partners, the previous administrator, to step down from their managing position. Now, in light of HASDC’s successes at the San José airport, the company will take over administration of Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport expansions.

HASDC operates out of Houston International Airport, which saw more than 43 million passengers in 2007. In comparison, Juan Santamaria welcomed only four million, and Daniel Oduber only saw 400,000. Keeping these numbers in mind, the Alterra believed that HASDC could manage the country’s largest airport and therefore sold the Houston-based company their renovation contract. With only a few months’ track record, it seems that things are looking up – extra money has been generated, improvements have been made and renovation

seems to be an achievable goal. With this success, the U.S. company earned its second Costa Rica airport contract, and they will soon start expansion management in Liberia.

 

According to Karla González, minister of Public Works and Transportation, Liberia airport’s expansions will receive an initial $35 million investment. A new terminal must be built, though the General Comptroller for the Republic must first approve the project and its allotted funds. González also added that the airport will receive a 20-year concession for almost 5.7 extra acres of Guanacaste land. After approval, the projected construction period will last approximately six months, though several requirements must first be met. Most importantly, HASDC must secure all municipal permits necessary for the construction, a process which should be completed by December 2009.

The new airport terminal will be two stories high. The first floor will measure almost 190,000 square feet, and will house immigration, customs, baggage claim services, passenger check-in and welcome areas for arriving passengers. Airline and airport administration offices will also be a part of the new building’s first floor. The second level will measure almost 60,000 square feet, and will house waiting areas, airport entertainment areas, four boarding gates and both governmental and airline offices.

Changes and improvements come at an opportune time, since Liberia and Guanacaste province have seen a significant rise in Flights to Costa Rica, and therefore passenger traffic and area tourism. In 2008’s first trimester, the airport welcomed 156,000 passengers, putting it on track to increase this year’s traffic by more than 50,000 passenger, a 12.5% increase. Larger, more modern facilities will help the airport to better serve its customers and handle any addition traffic flows, as regional tourism continues to increase.

It’s safe to say that no one is counting on fast renovations, however. The Costa Rican system is notorious for its inflated bureaucracy, and legal processes often take much longer than planned (or desired). If all goes well, Karla González believes that Liberia’s airport terminal should be completed by July of 2010. At that time, the airport will be capable of handling 1,500 passengers at a time, 600 more than is currently possible.