Proposed local airport to need additional space

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001


BATON ROUGE – The next round in an ongoing debate over the feasibility of a new airport between Baton Rouge and New Orleans will take place Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Louisiana Airport Authority. According to Glenda Jeansonne, director of economic development for LAA, the URS Corporation will present to the authority its final report on “risk analysis” for the proposed Intermodal Transportation Center. The final report from URS on its six-month study will provide economic forecasts and financial analysis, as well as an analysis of facility requirements. “Preliminary numbers,” according to Jeansonne, “show a need for 34 million square feet of additional warehousing and six million square yards of cargo apron by the year 2020.” Financial feasibility is expected to take both public and private investment. Ninety percent of the cost of the $450,000 study, Jeansonne said, was paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration. The State of Louisiana paid for the rest. If the study shows that the project is feasible, then the LAA will move toward the next phase, which is site selection. Those who favor the project envision a state-of-the-art regional cargo airport, linked to an on-site manufacturing complex and to so-called “multimodal” or “intermodal” transport: air, rail, truck, and water. The project’s supporters see it as vital to make Louisiana competitive in cargo movement for the next 20 years, and to enable Louisiana to compete with Miami and Houston for Latin American trade, in particular. Louisiana exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, are currently most using the airport in Miami. “There are a number of intermodal distribution centers that are already expanding their facilities to meet the needs of the 21st century,” Jeansonne noted, “including Jackson, Memphis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Denver.” Groups supporting the project say it is vital to the region’s economic development. But the proposal has drawn criticism, too. Some have viewed it as a pipedream, or as a ploy in the ongoing political struggle between New Orleans and suburban governments over control of the current New Orleans International Airport in Kenner. Others have expressed concern about the scope of the project, and its impact on the environment and way of life of the River Parishes. Still others have voiced skepticism about whether the alleged economic benefits will help local folks at all, or just be siphoned away. The open-to-the-public meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Department of Natural Resource building, located at 625 N. 4th St., Baton Rouge. LAA’s office is available to answer telephone inquiries at 985-652-3240.