Local leaders discuss transportation center

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 21, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / April 21, 2000

LAPLACE – A major multi-modal transportation center in the River Parishes has been envisioned for almost half a century. Now, leaders of both theLouisiana Regional Airport Authority and in the River Parishes feel it is time to make that vision a reality.

“We have a God-given geographic spot. We need vision. This will be a majoreconomic change not just locally, even north Louisiana will feel it,” said Glen Smith, chairman of the LRAA, said at meeting of the LRAA and the top leaders in River Parish politics and business Thursday night.

A major multi-modal transportation center would contribute between $15 to $20 billion year in revenue. The transportation center would include all formsof transportation in the air, on the land and in the sea. Covering a massive25,000 acres or 6.2 million square feet, the center would become a majorshipping facility that would bring in companies from all over the U.S. toLouisiana. The project would cost between $1.3 to $1.7 billion to create, saidSmith.

The project has been on the drawing board since before The Greiner Team drew up the draft for the project in January 1994. Since then it has movedforward and stalled out in the midst of political disagreements and interruptions, said St. James Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. However with the new act pushed through by Gov. Foster, the FederalAeronautics Association has finally been able give the project the consideration that may turn the River Parishes into one of the most prosperous economic areas in the country.

Updates on proposed expansion in other international airports, such as those in Miami, Houston/Fort Worth and New York, were discussed. Those airports,already producing massive revenue and thousands of jobs for their communities, are looking to expand to better ship to the South American countries. These airports are restricted by lack of available land andcommunity resistance to expansion. The cost to bring their facilities up topar would cost them billions of dollars. In the River Parishes, though possiblesites have yet to be evaluated, the availability the large amount of acreage needed and the direct access to the river make it one of the most profitable sites in the country, said Smith.

The impacts of a completed intermodal facility would bring in many other businesses and projects, said Smith. Right now many of the products thatare shipped to South America from Texas travel through New Orleans to Miami. That shipping would be routed to here.Companies studying the feasibility of a high speed rail system that would move across the country have already contacted the LRAA, interested in connecting the projects, said Smith.

Support of the project was sounded by everyone that commented at the meeting, many pleading that differences be set aside so this project could be given a chance.

Currently the LRAA is at the stage that a comprehensive feasibility study needs to be done, so the FAA and state and local officials can decide on the project.

“We don’t need a full $1.5 billion up front. We need $3 million to do this studyso we can continue,” said Smith.

What is needed from those at the meeting was also discussed. “Call Sen.John Breaux and tell him you want this project. He’s the only one that canstop this,” Smith said.

After the presentation, River Parishes presidents Nickie Monica, Hymel and Albert Laque stood before the group and stated their positions. Theyrecognized the project as a valuable economic tool, not just for some of the parishes but for the whole of Louisiana. They committed themselves tosupporting the intermodal transportation center and vowed to bring the project into reality.

Return To News Stories