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New start for New Orleans: New Orleans' International Airport has major redevelopment plans. Tom Allett gets a preview.

The New Orleans Aviation Board (NOAB) has announced plans to build a brand new, state-of-the-art airport terminal on the north side of the city's existing Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (IATA: MSY). The announcement comes less than two years after the city's Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, requested the Aviation Board undertake an in-depth analysis of four proposals from the airport's master plan. Shortly thereafter, the NOAB issued Requests for Proposals for design, programme management, environmental, land use, and financial feasibility consultants. A team was selected using a competitive selection procurement process. It evaluated four different alternatives: refurbishment of the existing terminal, expansion on the south side, a new terminal on the west side, or a new terminal on the north side. Each of these options envisaged using the airport's current runways and would be located within the property's existing footprint.

The current terminal is over 50 years old, and its operators recognise that its infrastructure and set-up are making operational costs too high, describing them as having reached: "unsustainable levels". The NOAB believes the ageing infrastructure limits the existing terminal's ability to generate enough revenue from parking and retail activity, leaving the airport with a high-cost, low-revenue model which inevitably means airlines, and ultimately passengers, pay more for their services. Obviously, this puts MSY at a competitive disadvantage in terms of attracting new air carriers, routes and ground-based businesses. The airport was recently renovated as New Orleans prepared to host the showpiece event of the American Football season--Super Bowl XLVII--which took place in February. However, the airport's management team recognises that it is the 'behind-the-wail' infrastructure that really needs to be addressed. After the in-depth study requested by Mayor Landrieu was completed and the options evaluated it was agreed that the North Side Terminal Project (NSTP) would provide what the NOAB describes as: "the best opportunities for revenue growth and sustainable operating costs, in addition to giving the Airport and region the best job and economic development potential."

The basic NSTP is estimated to cost approximately $650 million, but includes additional options to add a $72 million power plant; $87 million for a new flyover from the major 1-10 artery road to improve access and $17 million for a potential on-site hotel. The total cost is estimated at $826 million. Subject to the successful conclusion of environmental reviews, which will include extensive community engagement, construction is expected to start in 2014, with completion in 2018. Funding will come from various airport self-generated funds along with federal and state aviation grants. The NOAB is keen to emphasise that the City of New Orleans will not be funding any part of the new terminal project. Additionally, US law prevents airport funding from being used for other (non-airport) improvements.

COMMENT

Commenting on the recent decision to proceed with the NSTP, Mayor Landrieu said: The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport serves as a gateway to millions of tourists and business travellers each year and is a critical driver for the creation of jobs and economic development.

"Creating a new, modern airport is integral to our success as a world-class travel destination and hub for commerce. It makes economic sense and will create over 13,000 jobs in construction. Recently, significant progress has been made to improve the air service, facilities and customer experience at Armstrong International. But this option provides us [with] the ability to build on these improvements and create the world-class airport that this city deserves.

"This project is about investing in our future. As the 300th anniversary of New Orleans approaches in 2018, my vision is to create a world-class, international airport that will continue the economic vitality of our region. We cannot afford to let another 30 years go by without a clear path forward. The north side option is financially feasible and delivers a strong return on investment for our region."

Nolan Rollins, Chairman of the NOAB added: "For decades, the Aviation Board has studied the possibility of building a world class airport. We are now moving into action. This plan will create jobs and economic development for our community and will make our airport more competitive. Perhaps most importantly, we will have an airport worthy of our city."
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Title Annotation:NEW ORLEANS
Author:Allett, Tom
Publication:Airports International
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:701
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