KENNER — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and airport officials on Wednesday announced plans for a new $650 million terminal at Armstrong International Airport.
The proposed terminal would be on the north side of the airport’s property and replace the existing terminal that opened in 1959 and has been expanded several times since.
Speaking during a morning news conference, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he hopes the facility will be completed by May 5, 2018, in time for the city’s tricentennial.
The estimated start time for the project is mid-2014.
Landrieu said residents have for decades needed a “world-class airport.”
“Now they’ll get one,” he said.
Beyond the terminal, airport operators also hope to eventually build a power plant that would include solar technology, improve access from Interstate 10 and construct an on-site hotel that would raise the overall price tag for the project to $826 million.
Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni said he hopes a new terminal with better access to Veterans Boulevard could be an economic boon.
Officials stressed that money for the project would come from the airport’s self-generated funds, federal and state grants, and bonds, rather than from the city.
Armstrong Aviation Director Iftikhar Ahmad said that while funding for the terminal and the other projects has been identified, it has not yet been secured. Airport operators will begin efforts to secure those funds as plans develop further, Ahmad said.
The announcement of plans for the new terminal followed a study by the city’s Aviation Board that Landrieu requested in 2011 to explore to possibility of a new terminal.
Of four options for the airport’s future, the new terminal on the north side of the airport’s property is the preferred alternative.
The Aviation Board voted Wednesday morning to recommend that proposal over the other three that would have seen either a refurbishment of the existing terminal or some demolitions and additions to the aging structure that officials said is becoming more and more expensive to maintain.
Documents the city provided note that the new terminal is needed since areas of the existing terminal are more than 50 years old and have to accommodate functions and technologies that were not around when it was built.
Modern-day airplanes, excess space and a need for better access to I-10 were some of the other reasons the documents cited for needing a new terminal.
“We’ve got a 50-year-old airport here ... something’s got to be done. Now’s the time to do it,” Aviation Board Vice Chairman Doug Thornton said. “This is feasible.”
Bob Montgomery, an executive with Southwest Airlines, said the project will bring needed improvements to Armstrong.
“It can be done in a way that protects low fares and advances travel into New Orleans,” Montgomery said.
Though the existing terminal underwent more than $300 million in renovations before the Super Bowl, those upgrades would be in use for at least another five years while any new terminal is designed and built.
Once that happens, Landrieu said, the existing facilities could be repurposed for several uses, including charter flights and office space for airport staff, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.
The cost of repurposing and demolition is included in the estimates for the overall price for the project.
Additionally, according to the airport’s long-term infrastructure and development plan, there is the possibility of using some of the airport’s space for an “intermodal logistics park.” With use of existing rail lines and a new spur connection, freight from the Port of New Orleans could be transported that way, minimizing truck traffic in New Orleans’ Central Business District, along I-10 and on other roads.