LA PAZ – Bolivia’s government has hired China’s Beijin Urban Construction Group to expand the Viru Viru International Airport in the eastern city Santa Cruz and make it a regional hub for passenger and cargo flights.
Bolivian Public Works Minister Milton Claros told reporters Thursday that a contract was signed with that company on April 27 for the design and construction of an intercontinental airport at the current Viru Viru site.
He said the documents had been forwarded on to the Exim Bank of China so it could complete the process of financing the project.
Viru Viru is Bolivia’s most international airport and is located in Santa Cruz, the nation’s most prosperous and heavily populated city.
The minister said that airport was aspiring to become the third-leading regional hub after the Lima and Sao Paulo airports, which have become “severely congested.”
The project will require an investment outlay of $300 million, while the procedure for securing financing approval could last up to six months.
The expanded airport will have a 157,000-sq.-meter (1.7-million-sq.-foot) runway and the terminal will be expanded to 50,000 sq. meters (537,490 sq. feet), according to project details the Public Works Ministry cited in a statement.
Claros said the company had pledged to transfer technology, train technicians and remain for at least three years to assist with airport operation and maintenance once the expanded facility is up and running.
The management of Bolivia’s three largest airports – which serve the cities of Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz – has been in government hands since La Paz nationalized a unit of Spain’s Abertis Infraestructura in February 2013 due to its alleged failure to make needed investments.