HOUSTON – Shovels are finally digging dirt at Bush Intercontinental Airport on the much-discussed International Terminal Redevelopment Project, or ITRP.
"The airlines for whom we are building this, they absolutely love this. I think it's great. I can't ask for a better outcome," said Houston Airport System Director Mario Diaz, following a groundbreaking this morning.
For nearly a year, Channel 2 Investigates has reported on challenges facing the project. In August, City Controller Chris Brown was critical of the $111 million spent so far, with little return.
"At the rate we are going, we are spending a lot of money with not a lot to show for it," Brown said.
The project was announced in 2014. The original price tag was $700 million to $900 million for 15 new wide-body gates. The cost later soared to $1.7 billion.
"I did not have a great deal of confidence in what was before me when I came in," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
In December, Turner told Channel 2 Investigates that he didn't like the cost or the design.
"It couldn't handle many of the big planes, the big-body planes," Turner said.
On Friday, he said, "From the original plan it will be saving us a lot more money and getting a much better product."
The cost is now $1.2 billion, which is still $300 million to 500 million more than originally planned. And there will be fewer wide-body gates, for the time being.
"When we finish this, there will be 13 wide-bodies. There will still be five that we can build in the future," Diaz said.