Airport authority expects to announce sites soon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002


LAPLACE -The Louisiana Airport Authority expects to announce two potential sites for its intermodal transportation center by July or August.

Win Beyea of URS Corp., which is completing work on the site selection study, told the LAA board at its last meeting, held recently in LaPlace, the study “is pretty much on schedule.”

Once the top two sites are named, site-specific studies will be launched prior to purchase. A meeting was held recently with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along with URS representatives, along with a meeting with the major investors.

Executive Director Glenda Jeansonne said five European investor groups and two American groups all met to review progress so far. They expect to issue requests for proposals in late June or early July.

“We’re looking at sites on both sides of the river, Baton Rouge to New Orleans,” she added.

The Corps’ meeting also went well, Jeansonne reported, including meeting with the official who would sign the necessary permits. “What we’re doing, they were very impressed with.”

By 2004, all studies should be finished and the LAA would be ready to purchase the necessary property.

The proposed intermodal center is conceived to connect air, water, rail and highway transportation facilities in a 25,000-acre warehousing, manufacturing, production and distribution center, to be located “somewhere in Louisiana,” according to Jeansonne.

It is believed the center could create as many as 20,000 new jobs for the region, if placed in the River Parishes.

URS Corp. has already completed the $4.5 million risk analysis study and URS in turn awarded the majority of the subcontracting work to Louisiana residents.

Jeansonne added investment inquiries continue to pour in at their LaPlace office. “The interest is growing,” she said, mostly among German and U.S. companies. “We’ve been working so hard to get off the ground.”

The project has been under development since 1992 in a public/private partnership in an effort to establish the first major intermodal center in the country since Denver and Dallas/Fort Worth.

With Federal Aviation Administration funding, backing from the state (including the endorsement of Gov. Mike Foster), the project’s administrators hope to become operational in a few short years.

Beyea said sites in several parishes are under consideration, and “we’re getting down to 12 sites” to be pared again to about five before being brought before the LAA. From there, two sites will be offered for consideration, a preferred site and an alternate, fallback site.

However, there are still considerations such as environmental impact, economic impact, impact on the local community and land acquisition to go through before any construction could begin.

Jeansonne has emphasized that there is no one site already locked in for the project.

The suitable site would eventually house a 3,000-acre aviation/air cargo facility and include 14,000 acres for revenue-producing industry, warehousing, manufacturing, production and distribution centers.

Access to the Mississippi River is also central to the project to make it truly intermodal, linking river traffic with rail, highway and air cargo transport.

The intermodal center itself would be owned by the LAA, tenants signing for 30-50-year leases.

The LAA was formed in 1992 by then-Gov. Edwards. The initial feasibility study was completed in 1995. The risk analysis study was completed in June 2001, at about the same time the project received Foster’s endorsement.