MEXICO CITY (AP) — Voters in Mexico have rejected completion of partly built new airport for Mexico City, opposing it by a 70 to 29 percent margin.
Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday he will respect the referendum, effectively ending the $13 billion project which is already about one-third built.
"The decision taken by the citizens is democratic, rational and efficient," Lopez Obrador said. "The people decided."
It is unclear what will be done with the enormous foundations already built on the site, a former lakebed known as Texcoco.
The organizers of the referendum reported late Sunday that just over 1 million people participated in the referendum. The vote was criticized, because only about one out of every 90 registered Mexican voters participated.
Mexico's peso dropped by about 2 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday morning after the decision was made public, trading at about 19.77 to $1.
Lopez Obrador had pledged during his campaign to cancel the project, claiming it was marred by overspending and corruption.
He instead favors adding two commercial runways to a military air base in the town of Santa Lucia, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) away, which would imply an improved road to get there from Mexico City and the current 1940s-era airport.
Lopez Obrador said he had received assurances from international experts that the current airport and Santa Lucia could operate simultaneously.
He said that Mexicans will save about $5 billion by abandoning the unfinished Texcoco project. But most important, he said that the decision means "corruption has ended."
Still, given the distances between the current airport, the planned Santa Lucia terminal and the satellite airport in the nearby city of Toluca, it remains unclear how people could make connecting flights within any reasonable amount of time.
Lopez Obrador called the decisions "a triumph for the environmental movement," saying that the Texcoco project threatened to eliminate the last remaining vestiges of lakes that once covered the Valley of Mexico. Lake Nabor Carrillo had become a refuge for migratory birds but was too close to the Texcoco site and would have posed the threat of birds hitting jet engines.
Lopez Obrador said he hoped that the unfinished site could be used to create "a big sports and ecological center for Mexico City."