Port of South Louisiana aiding in airport expansion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2011



RESERVE – An 1,100-foot extension of the runway at the St. John Airport stands as the marquee addition included in a recently approved master plan for the 21-year-old facility.

The Port of South Louisiana Board of Commissioners accepted the master plan at a recent meeting in LaPlace. The port has managed the airport, which is owned by the parish, since 2009.

Joel Chaisson, executive director for the Port, said the extra length on the runway, which will extend it beyond 5,000 feet, opens the door to more traffic from small jets and helps the port in its plans to turn the airport into a cargo hub that can work in conjunction with the port.

“It gives us yet another mode of transportation for us to use,” Chaisson said. “The port has taken advantage of a quality rail and highway system in the parish, and the airport just gives us more options.”

Chaisson said the plan to extend the runway and improve the taxiway has an estimated price tag of $2.4 million, with the money coming from the state, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port of South Louisiana.

The master plan also calls for future apron and terminal expansion, additional airport hangars, a fueling station for Jet A fuel and additional apron space to accommodate small aircraft. The long-range plan includes developing cargo facilities on the east side of the airport, which officially opened in 1990.

“We hope to go out for bids on the runway at some point during the first quarter of next year,” Chaisson said. “It is something we have looked to accomplish since we took over management. There were many hurdles to get through.”

Chaisson said environmental impacts to nearby wetlands prevented a runway extension exclusively to the north. The most recent plan calls for extensions in both directions, including a 746-foot northern extension that stays within the airport’s ring levee and avoids wetlands and a 405-foot southern extension.

Chaisson said one additional hurdle that must be addressed deals with the Port’s agreement with the parish. He said FAA officials want either the parish government or the Port to take full responsibility of the facility.

“The lease agreement we have in place is not good enough,” Chaisson said. “We are working with the parish to address it.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the FAA wanted a stronger agreement that what was currently in place and said the parish has drafted a letter regarding the agreement.