MIAMI — If you fly, it may seem like every airport in the county is under construction. The truth is not far off: The Airport Council International says virtually every commerical airport in the U.S. is adding a runway, a terminal or some other expansion project, as studies project airline travel will grow steadily in the next 15 years.
Among them, Miami International Airport, where a massive construction project is $1.5 billion over budget, creating what some critics call a "Fleecing of America."
The project is Miami's airport train. The mile-long tracks on the roof of the new terminal are already two years overdue and still not complete.
"I think some mistakes were made," says John Cosper with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
The specially designed electric train was ready for delivery on time, but with no tracks and nowhere to run the train to keep it operational, the 20 cars are sitting in Japan. Every week, the manufacturer, Sumitomo, runs the empty trains back and forth, back and forth.
Call it "the money train." The cost for those empty rides to nowhere? $56,000 each month.
"We don't see it as comical at all," says Cosper. "We are digging ourselves out of a hole."
Airport managers thought about scrapping the train altogether. Instead, they put in moving walkways, but when they timed out the trip they realized without a train it would be impossible to make flight connections in under an hour.
"It's just one of those things," says Chris Mazzella, the inspector general of Miami-Dade Co. "A delay in construction has cost millions of dollars in unanticipated expenses with respect to those trains."
The train may eventually become "the little engine that could," but it will still be at least six years behind schedule, and with an additional price tag of nearly $2 million to just run it empty.
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