Miami International Airport (MIA) has long been a hub for American Airlines and for years, passengers have relied on the SkyTrain to ease their journey through the infamously large Concourse D. However, in a new development, this convenient mode of transport has been indefinitely sidelined due to structural concerns. Let’s dive into the details.
The SkyTrain: A Brief Introduction
The SkyTrain has been a fixture at MIA since 2010, part of a massive $3 billion expansion project that consolidated four concourses into Concourse D. This ambitious endeavor was aimed at optimizing space for planes, with the drawback of increasing walking distances for passengers. For the past decade, the SkyTrain has been a lifeline for travelers, ferrying them across the sprawling concourse and mitigating the additional distance between gates. The service, operated by Crystal Mover Services, a subsidiary of Japanese train-maker Mitsubishi, has been the go-to choice for those looking to traverse the expansive concourse with ease.
The Abrupt Closure
Early in September, engineers working on behalf of Miami-Dade County stumbled upon what they called “accelerated deterioration” in several concrete structures supporting the SkyTrain tracks. Specifically, Pier 106 displayed significant structural issues, with extensive cracking along the pier cap perimeter. Faced with this alarming discovery, Miami-Dade County took immediate action and decided to halt the SkyTrain operations indefinitely.
Greg Chin, an MIA spokesperson, shared that the analysis of the problem alone is expected to continue until at least mid-October. After that, MIA decision makers will have to pore over the findings and determine the best path forward. Given the gravity of the situation, it’s probably safe to assume that the SkyTrain may remain non-operational through the rest of 2023, if not even longer. While not everyone can easily avoid MIA, if you’re booking new reservations for the next several months (or can easily rebook existing ones without a huge fare difference), you might give some thought to connecting at other AA hubs like CLT or DFW (where it makes sense to do so) if you’re not prepared to walk significant distances.
Questions Remain Unanswered
One pressing question remains: why were these cracks not addressed earlier? Miami-Dade County has not yet released the inspection report from HNTB or provided an explanation for the delayed repairs. According to Chin, the SkyTrain structure undergoes inspection every two years, in accordance with Florida transportation regulations. Minor cracks in the three piers in question were identified during the 2021 inspection but were merely monitored.
It was during a subsequent May inspection that the issues seemed more significant, leading to the in-depth analysis by HNTB and, ultimately, the shutdown in September.
The Long Walk Ahead
For now, passengers in Concourse D find themselves without the SkyTrain as their trusty ally. The closure has left most travelers with no choice but to resort to the traditional method of walking. With each end of the concourse separated by over a mile of terminal space, this could be quite a trek for many.
MIA has introduced a limited alternative: two six-seat golf carts that run between 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Passengers in need can flag down one of these carts to assist with their journey, but the availability is extremely limited. These carts aim to help those who might struggle with the extended walking distance.
The unexpected and indefinite closure of the SkyTrain at MIA’s Concourse D is undoubtedly a significant inconvenience for travelers. With the analysis alone expected to continue through mid-October, it’s clear that we’ll have to do without this automated mover for the foreseeable future. If you’re planning to pass through MIA, it might be wise to prepare for a long walk ahead, especially if your journey extends into 2023 and beyond.
Source: Miami Herald