Budget for new international terminal at Bush Intercontinental Airport continues to climb

New budget erases a huge portion of $500 million the city said it saved

HOUSTON – There are more problems with the budget at George Bush Intercontinental Airport surrounding the Mickey Leland International Terminal Redevelopment Project-- it’s soaring once again.

According to airport records, the new budget stands at $1.43 billion.

It was back in the fall of 2018 that KPRC 2 Investigates first revealed the roller coaster budget was at $1.2 billion, according to Houston Airports System Director Mario Diaz and Mayor Sylvester Turner.

At the time, Director Diaz tried to make the point very clearly as to where his budget was following a State of the Airports address: “Get the facts straight, get it straight and then we have reduced it $1.2 billion, saving $500 million dollars.”

Mayor Turner also was proud of the fact that an initial budget in the neighborhood of $700 to $900 million announced before he entered office in 2014 was slightly over $1.2 billion. The increase came after the mayor changed the plans, saving Houstonians $500 million after finances had spiraled.

“Instead of it being $1.7 billion in costs, it is now $1.2 billion,” Turner said.

However, nearly a quarter-of-billion dollars in savings are now gone. The $230 million dollar increase is the result of rising costs in recent years, according to the airport.

When Diaz went before the city’s Economic Development Committee last month, he made it clear, “The original budget was $1.3 billion.”

The director referenced the number multiple times.

“It was 2019 that we established the budget, this new budget at $1.3 billion,” said Diaz.

Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Martin made it a point to question Diaz on his numbers.

“I remember this being a lot less expensive than $1.3,” Martin said.

On Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for Diaz said the director “misspoke.”

We took our findings to the Houston controller.

“We’re trending in the wrong direction,” said Chris Brown.

The city’s financial watchdog has concerns over the loss of $230 million in savings.

“If the projection was to save $500M, we should have saved $500M,” said Brown.

After several delays, the project was set to be completed by the end of 2024. However, an HAS spokesman says a “phased airline relocation” will begin in December 2024 but it will not be completed until the spring of 2025.

Brown said he is concerned the budget will climb again and the real savings will not be known until the project is fully completed. It is important to keep in mind that the project relies on public dollars paid by travelers at Bush Intercontinental.

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Journalistic bulldog focused on accountability and how government is spending your dollars. Husband to Wonder Woman, father to a pitcher and two Cavapoos. Prefers queso over salsa.