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That New Car Smell Wafting Across Costa Rica

Construction of the new wing of the DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia is expected to start with eight gates and include waiting and boarding areas for 450 people, relieving some of the congestion that has caused complaints.

There is only one problem: a bidder has not yet been selected to undertake the project.

The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) is in the process of granting the concession for the 15,000-square meter wing to the private sector. The winning bidder will pay for the expansion, then pay themselves back with taxes travelers pay to exit the country. Some key details still remain undefined in the process.

“The exit tariff needs to be fixed, not variable,” said Guillermo Matamoros, Concessions Vice Minister. “The people who win the concession will get that money and pay the government 5 percent.”

Originally, the bid was scheduled to be approved in February, but the deadline has been pushed back several times and is currently set for Aug. 8 as the government tries to change the offer terms.

MOPT estimates that the construction project at the airport, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, will take six to eight months. But the series of setbacks to the process is likely to delay completion until 2010.

New concessions regulations have affected the terms of the contract.

“We are in a period of waiting for offers,” Matamoros said. “We had to change the date. We are going to modify the offer.”

The bidders represent a large group with a wide array of ambitions, ranging from the physical construction of the terminal to the selection of stores in the structure.

“More than 30 companies are involved in the discussions,” Matamoros said. “Not all are interested in working on the terminal. They want to open stores and car rentals. Three or five companies are interested in the actual terminal.”

The winner of the Liberia airport bidding process is expected to have to pony up between $16 million and $20 million for the modifications. The contract is good for 20 years and eight months and includes the right to expand periodically, according to MOPT.

“Every five years, they can make the terminal bigger,” Matamoros said.

Officials expect the changes to cut the check-in time in half.

The additional space also will come with new bathrooms and places for tourists to shop and await their flights more comfortably.

Authorities determined the airport needs to expand because of the flood of tourism to the Guanacaste region in recent years. As the popularity of Guanacaste has increased, the airport experienced a growth of more than 500 percent between 2001 and 2006.



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