President Enrique Pena Nieto may expand the congested Mexico City airport, the busiest in Latin America, on government-owned land east of the capital, his top transportation official said.

Construction could begin as soon as 2014, Communications and Transportation Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza told reporters today in Mexico City. Investment in Benito Juarez International Airport would amount to about $5 billion, according to an estimate by Luis Zarate, head of a trade group for builders.

Even without a firm commitment, Ruiz Esparza’s comments were the most detailed yet from the Pena Nieto administration about its aims after studying airport options for months and forcing airlines to move some flights to non-peak times. The airport surpassed its hourly takeoff and landing limits an average of once a week last year, according to the ministry.

“The saturation we’ve had for several years in the Mexico City airport keeps us from having more tourism, more investment, more business in the capital,” Ruiz Esparza said, according to an e-mailed transcript of his remarks. “It’s something that should be resolved as soon as possible.”

Pena Nieto, who was elected in 2012, floated the idea of airport expansion during a June interview in which he also raised the prospect of replacing the existing facility and upgrading airports near Mexico City to create an alternative to Benito Juarez International. He gave no details then.

Toluca Studied

Ruiz Esparza said today that in addition to expanding Benito Juarez International, Mexico also may build a second runway at the airport in Toluca, 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of downtown Mexico City, to handle rising airline traffic. The plans were recommended by outside consultants, he said.

“We’ve received the recommendation to expand the operational capacity on lands located on the eastern side of the airport,” said Ruiz Esparza, who didn’t identify the “specialized companies” hired by the government to study the airport projects.

Those companies are still working on detailed proposals covering engineering, architecture, design, hydrology and airspace, Ruiz Esparza said. They’re also studying the relationship between the existing airport and the expanded facilities.

Comparable projects in other countries have taken as long as 12 years to complete, Ruiz Esparza said.

Grupo Aeromexico SAB and low-cost carriers Volaris and Interjet are pushing aircraft orders to a record, and Mexico airline passengers rose 8 percent during the first 10 months of the year after 2012’s all-time high of 56.8 million, according to data compiled by Ruiz Esparza’s ministry.

Mexico City’s airport handled a record 29.5 million passengers last year, more than twice the traffic at Cancun airport, the nation’s second-biggest by passengers.

Measured by takeoffs and landings, the Mexico City airport’s 36,391 aircraft movements in August ranked 22nd in the world, between Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International, according to Airports Council International.

Editors: Ed Dufner and Ben Livesey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brendan Case in Mexico City at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at