New Orleans’ new airport terminal, once it finally opens, will be a grand new gateway to the region. It could also serve as a symbol, not just of the city’s modern, outwardly-focused ambitions but also its prosaic, perennial challenges.
The opening of the soaring new departure hall is now a year behind schedule, officials confirmed this week, due not to above-ground issues but to the unstable soil underneath. Turns out a sewer pipe has shifted so much that it needs to be replaced, at an additional cost of $7.5 million.
The already-delayed terminal is now scheduled to open next May, 12 months after an initial target date that would have allowed former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who pushed the project, to preside and would have positioned the ceremony as part of New Orleans’ tricentennial festivities. Instead, it will now happen after next year’s Jazz Fest, with Mayor LaToya Cantrell cutting the ribbon (yes, the airport is in Kenner, but it's controlled by New Orleans).
Travelers have waited this long and can surely wait a few months longer, and officials are right to point out that it’s much better to have discovered the problem now than later.
Still, there’s something about the story that’s so typical of the New Orleans area, where infrastructure and environmental challenges are minimized at everyone’s peril. That’s especially true for those who seek to put big ideas into action.