By any measure, the Louis Armstrong International Airport project in New Orleans is massive.

The cost: $1.3 billion. The timeline: six years. The context: New Orleans is the first major American city in a decade to replace its airport terminal. The last was Indianapolis in 2008.

The Advocate's Tyler Bridges, in three parts, breaks down all facets of the project, including the good, bad and ugly.


New Orleans' new 'world class' airport a big win -- but a few things will raise eyebrows

The opening will cap a remarkable decade for air travel at the airport. Consider:

-- For the first time since 1982, New Orleans has direct service to Europe, with British Airways offering nonstop flights to London and Condor flying nonstop to Frankfurt.

-- Airport traffic grew by 60 percent, making New Orleans the third fastest-growing airport in America over that time.

-- Thanks to the growth in passenger traffic and better cost containment, costs per passenger will have declined even as the airport begins paying down the debt for the new terminal. New Orleans’ costs are lower than the average for similarly sized airports.

Can't see video below? Click here.

But as the project nears takeoff, some blemishes also have become more apparent:

-- The total cost of $1.3 billion for the terminal and roadways to it is about twice the $650 million estimate touted in 2013 by then-New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the airport’s outside consultants. That's partly because costs have grown and partly because the original price tag didn't include major roadwork.

-- The terminal is now scheduled to open a year after the original date. The latest delay was caused by the need to build a new sewage pipe for the terminal after the one that was built could no longer operate because of shifting soils.

+12 
100718 New Airport Diagram.jpg

-- Although the new terminal is about three-quarters of a mile closer to Interstate 10, drivers will likely encounter traffic tie-ups, possibly significant ones, getting there via Loyola Drive in Kenner. That’s because the planned flyovers from the interstate won’t be ready until at least 2023 — in part because of poor planning.

-- The new airport access road off Loyola Drive cuts in half a poor, mostly black neighborhood in Kenner, a development that has upset residents but attracted little attention from Landrieu, other local officials and the Aviation Board.

-- The new long-term parking lot won’t be ready when the new terminal opens. For the first couple of months, departing passengers who want to use cheaper long-term parking will have to park in a lot by the existing terminal and take a shuttle to the new one. Arriving passengers who want to rent a vehicle will have to take a shuttle bus back to the existing rental car facility next to the current terminal.

Click here to read more, including the idea's origin, the plan's financing and speed bumps along the way.


Why getting to New Orleans' new airport terminal likely 'a mess' for at least 4 years

+12 
NO.loyola.adv.001

Cars exit I-10 and turn onto Loyola Drive in Kenner, La., Friday, July 27, 2018. The intersections on Loyola Drive at I-10 and Veterans will be upgraded to help the flow of traffic after the new airport terminal opens at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

If you’re coming from New Orleans or Metairie, reaching the terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport once you get off Interstate 10 now takes about five minutes.

It will likely take longer once the new airport terminal opens in May, even though the terminal will be closer to the interstate. And the traffic problems will likely persist for at least four years.

That’s because most drivers coming from New Orleans, who now take a flyover from I-10 to the Airport Access Road, will have to run a gauntlet of three stoplights on already-congested Loyola Drive to reach a new road that will access the terminal on the north side of the airfield.

Drivers coming from LaPlace, Gonzales, Baton Rouge and other cities to the west will exit at Loyola on an off-ramp that already backs up — and then must pass through two stoplights.

Landrieu and the Aviation Board appear to have paid little attention at first to the key question of how travelers would get to the new terminal.

Although they announced plans for the new terminal in April 2013, state records show the Mayor’s Office didn’t make its first request to the state to finance the I-10 flyovers until October 2014 — 18 months later.

Click here to read more about the traffic outlook surrounding the new airport terminal.


How do some Kenner residents feel about New Orleans' new airport? Overlooked

Although consultants for the airport, seeking community feedback, hosted two meetings in June 2013 at the nearby Doubletree Hotel, just 33 residents attended, according to the consultants’ report. Many residents of the Veterans Heights/Susan Park neighborhood, among them Holmes, say they never heard about those meetings, though the consultants sent out 4,000 invitations.

“I just think the community should have been involved from the start of this,” Holmes said in a recent interview. “Everybody should have had access to the table. That was not granted.”

The Veterans Heights/Susan Park neighborhood lies between Interstate 10 on the north, the airfield to the south, the St. Charles Parish line to the west and the Airport Access Road to the east. It had 5,000 residents at the time of the 2010 census.

Click here to read more about the effect of the new airport on nearby residents.


Got any questions about the new airport? We'll see if we can answer them. Submit your questions below.

Can't see the form below? Click here.