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New MSY hits another construction snag

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Officials say the airport is still set to open this fall

A rendering of a T-shaped airport terminal with glass curving around its edges.
A rendering of the new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, set to open in fall 2019

Ongoing drainage problems at the new terminal intended to replace the existing Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport have raised more questions about the $1 billion project’s timeline.

According to reports from the Times-Picayune–the New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV, numerous cracks have appeared in the terminal’s underground drainage system. They reportedly won’t affect the airport’s projected opening date, though officials still haven’t announced when exactly the airport will open. Construction issues have pushed its opening back four times.

Ruptures in the drainage system impacted “about 300 of the 15,000 linear feet of the drainage line,” according to reports, and construction workers are digging through the foundation to get to those lines.

The new 35-gate airport experienced other construction issues earlier this year, prompting officials to delay its opening to fall 2019, several months off from its target date of May 2019.

“I accept the responsibility of making sure that when our new airport opens, it is at 100 percent readiness,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a press release in April. “The fact is: It is not ready, and there is more work to be done to get us there.”

In April 2018, with construction ongoing in a then-mostly concrete-and-dust-filled building, former mayor Mitch Landrieu and other city, state, and Jefferson Parish officials toured the new airport and held a celebratory press conference, a year ahead of the airport’s proposed opening and just a few weeks before Landrieu left office.

Landrieu called the airport a “gateway of the South” and an anticipated major economic driver to help boost tourism in a city already seeing unprecedented tourism numbers: 13 million passengers passed through MSY in 2018, according to airport officials, up from 12 million passengers in 2017 and 11 million in 2016.

Officials broke ground on the new airport in 2014, just one year after a $300 million renovation of the current airport’s terminals was completed.

Also complicating the airport’s opening date is an Interstate 10 interchange from Loyola Avenue to ensure traffic flows to and from the new airport. That project isn’t expected to finish until 2023, according to the Times-Picayune–the New Orleans Advocate.