Hold That Plane

Airport gears up for fall opening of new terminal
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In New Orleans, we are very good at being fashionably late. Maybe it’s because we like to make a dramatic entrance, or it might be because it is usually too hot to move with any rapidity. Whatever the reason, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is right on time with its delayed opening of the new $1 billion terminal now slated to open in the fall.

The announcement made in April, one month before an earlier target opening date, didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It was actually a relief to me. My mother had accidentally booked a flight for the initial May 15 opening date, and I was dreading traffic quagmire that seemed assured. There is still no announced opening date in the fall, but Kevin Dolliole, the director of aviation at MSY, shared at a recent luncheon where he was the keynote speaker that they do have a target date all internal stakeholders are working toward. He gave the impression they are working hard to under promise and over deliver.

As to the expected traffic, Dolliole gave assurances that the work the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has done to add two lanes to Loyola Drive, the new access point for the replacement terminal, will not add too much travel time to get to the airport. Because if you don’t yet know, you will not be able to get to the new terminal directly from Airline Drive.

The airport has a new website at thenewmsy.com and it explains the new route for accessing the terminal. What some don’t realize is the new terminal is a replacement terminal, and the old terminal will be closed to the public. The new terminal will be accessible from I-10 from the Loyola Drive exit, which will become the new Terminal Drive as you travel toward the airport.

There is also a new approach to how traffic will move to and from the terminal, strategically organized into four circulation paths. The old terminal design of departures being on a floor above arrivals, thus creating a stacked drop-off/pick-up road pattern will not be in use for the modern terminal. Rather, private vehicle departure traffic (passenger drop-off) will loop in front of the western side of the terminal and private vehicle arrival traffic (passenger pick-up) will loop in front of the eastern side of the terminal, both emanating from a “decision point” traffic circle on Terminal Drive. Courtesy vehicles and taxis will have different circulations paths as well. This design is intended to help traffic flow and ease access to the new terminal.

DOTD is scheduled to being construction on a new flyover ramp to modify the interchange on I-10 at Loyola Drive next month. It is projected to take four years to complete the work. One hopes that completion will be unfashionably early.

The new website is incredibly informative, and even fun to explore. Start at the FAQ page to get an overview of the new terminal and then take a deep dive to learn more project details. For infrastructure nerds, this is one of the biggest and most important projects in our region. The economic impact of the airport also shouldn’t be underestimated. The airport projects that by 2023, it will support more than 64,000 local jobs and generate $534 million in state and local tax revenue.

To see inside the new terminal and learn more from Dolliole and others working on the project, this 28-minute video called “Inside MSY” provides an in-depth look at the new MSY. And if you sign up for updates on the website, the airport will be inviting people to participate in Open Houses at the new terminal where they will do dry runs of airport operations to address potential issues prior to opening.

 

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