Airport risk analysis study gets go ahead

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / October 28, 2000

DESTREHAN – The Louisiana Airport Authority on Thursday approved a notice-to-proceed to go ahead with a $450,000 risk analysis study toward the planned regional intermodal airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is ponying up $405,000 for the study, to be done by URS Griner of Dallas, with the remainder coming from state government.

Once that study is completed, in four to six months, an 18-month, $2.8million feasibility study will follow, with 90 percent of the funding from the FAA and the rest from the state, for which the LAA is applying for the state match through the Capital Outlay Bill.

That feasibility study will include such hot-button items as site selection and environmental study, according to Economic Development Director Glenda Jeansonne.

LAA Chairman Glen D. Smith, who helped spearhead the project since1992, said a local office, to be located in LaPlace, will open this week.

Funding for that office came in $25,000 grants from the governments of St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James parishes and the Port ofSouth Louisiana.

Smith noted that the River Parishes area will be “monumentally affected” by the airport, no matter where between Baton Rouge and New Orleans it is eventually located.

Curtis Johnson, a former St. Charles parish councilman from St. Rose, saidthe time is right to act now. “When we look at 15 to 20 years down theroad, what happens then if we don’t do it?” Ken Perry of Patterson, one of the LAA board members, said during the meeting at Ormond Country Club the trend in Europe is for private development in airport construction. In America, airports are generallydeveloped through the government, with accompanying government delays.

Perry said of business involvement, “Since they directly benefit, it’s only right they help build it.”In this case, the LAA has lined up groups of private investors eager to help build the first major American airport in years. The latest major airportsdeveloped were in Denver and in Dallas-Ft. Worth.The major interested groups include Schiphol USA Inc., based inAmsterdam, The Netherlands, and New York; Groupe GTM/Aeroports de Paris Management; and Jerry Wolman Investments in Maryland, who has already offered $1 billion toward actual construction, according to Jeansonne.

“We now have major supporters,” Smith said. “Louisiana’s time has come.We need to move forward and take advantage of the situation.”A 25,000-acre site is being sought for the airport, with a firm site not yet established, nor even in which parish it will be.

However, Perry continued, “It’s not just a case of build it and they will come. It can be the greatest private/public partnership we’ve ever seen,and we’ll be at the front of the train.”Smith continued, “The project is moving, we have money in the bank and we will be moving the project forward.”

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