N.O. airport has largest passenger increase of any U.S. city _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN MCCUSKER -- Planes line up for take off at Louis Armstrong International Airport after the 2013 Super Bowl.

The Kenner City Council on Thursday cleared the way for construction of a new four-lane access road to Louis Armstrong International Airport. Crews will begin building a new $650 million terminal at the airport this summer.

Associated legislation approved by the Kenner council last month calls for about $900,000 worth of improvements to Loyola Drive between Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Interstate 10.

The goal is for the access road and Loyola Drive projects to be completed within 36 months and for both to help the area cope with an expected increase in traffic because of the new terminal, which also is due to open in 2018, Kenner Public Works Director Jose Gonzalez said.

The seven-member council voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding between Kenner and the city of New Orleans — which owns the airport — that will facilitate the construction of a $7 million access road to the new terminal.

The new terminal will be built just east of Aberdeen Street, the southern extension of Loyola Drive. Aberdeen will continue to provide access to an adjacent business park.

The access road involved in Thursday’s vote will handle traffic coming from either I-10 or Veterans to the new North Terminal, which will have two concourses, 30 gates and a 2,000-space parking garage.

In a related move, the Kenner council unanimously approved a contract worth up to $633,658 with Digital Engineering and Imaging Inc. for design services related to the access road.

There was little discussion about the road.

District 1 representative Gregory Carroll said he will host a meeting at 6 p.m. May 19 in the Susan Park gymnasium at 502 Veterans Blvd. at which airport and city officials will answer questions about whether the new terminal may create or worsen drainage, pollution and noise problems.

The previously approved improvements for Loyola include lengthening northbound turning lanes and improving the intersections at Veterans and I-10, Gonzalez said.

Both construction projects will ultimately receive 80 percent of their funding from the Federal Highway Administration and will be bid out by the state Department of Transportation and Development, Gonzalez said.

The New Orleans Aviation Board, which runs the airport, will fund the design and 20 percent of the construction cost for the new access road. Kenner will fund the design and 20 percent of the construction cost for the improvements along Loyola.

Digital Engineering and Imaging is also handling the design of the Loyola Drive project.

Airport officials have met regularly with representatives from Kenner, Jefferson Parish and the Regional Planning Commission about ways to avoid causing more drainage, traffic and noise problems in the area, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s office said.

Although the new access road and the improvements to Loyola will ease matters, they may not suffice to accommodate the increase in traffic volume the new terminal is expected to produce, Yenni’s office has said.

Officials are planning to build new I-10 ramps, at an estimated cost of $87 million, to assist the airport in dealing with the predicted growth in traffic, but Kenner has said that might not be funded or completed until between 2022 and 2025.