Airport says delaying new terminal site will avoid headaches later

Blame placed on topography not workmanship

Airport says delaying new terminal site will avoid headaches later

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A quick glance and some might mistake the huge new North Terminal at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport as complete, but work continues to get it finished along with redoing a critical piece of the new airport’s operation.

"It provides sewage drainage for the entire facility, so it has to be totally operable day one when you go into the facility,” said Aviation Director Kevin Dolliole, who serves as the airport’s leader.

A couple of months ago, the contractor did some sleuthing after installing nearly 2,500 feet of sewer line.

"It runs the length of the terminal facility on the north side, we went in with a camera, the contractor did to make sure everything was good before cementing over the sewer line and discovered the sagging,” Dolliole said Monday.

Work is already underway to correct the sagging sewer line and will cost close to $8 million. The problem is being blamed on shifting soil.

"It was a gravity line, so the solution is the contractor's going in now with a force main line, so everything will be forced through the sewer line as as opposed to just being pulled through by gravity, so another line is going to come in on top of what won't work and will be the resolution, which again the camera will be fed through, it'll be tested before it's closed in,” said Dolliole.

The sewer line problem has caused the opening date for the new airport terminal to be pushed back until the middle of May, after Jazz Fest.

An Aviation Board member was colorful during a meeting last week in describing what is at the root of the problem.

"The gumbo soils that we sit on in New Orleans. It’s not just this site, it’s not just this site. It’s the entire city of New Orleans. It’s what scares every contractor and every developer every time we build something,” said Roger Ogden.

Dolliole said they are fortunate the problem was discovered before the opening of the sprawling new terminal. He said the issue could have necessitated the closure of the new facility.

“Absolutely, if we'd been in and functioning in the new facility before that was discovered, yeah, all of the concrete to rip up. It would be very disruptive to operations,” Dolliole stated.

Restrooms could have been rendered useless if the problem was not addressed.

"And no toilets flushing in the new facility, so it would have been a pretty significant issue,” said Dolliole.

The FAA said it is aware of the sewer line issue.

Dolliole said paying for the sewer line repairs will not be a problem.

The airport has received $35 million dollars, including grant monies.

"It will all be covered, there will be no additional fees levied on the airlines, there’s a lot of new funding coming into the program,” Dolliole stated.

But should the public fear any other area of the airport sagging?

"The terminal itself I think is on 7,000 pilings overall and the garage is on pilings, as well. Those facilities aren’t moving,” said Dolliole.

And a lot of people are waiting to hear what will be done with the current airport which sits close to Airline Drive in Kenner.

"So to have 200 acres open up on a facility for potential redevelopment is probably not going to happen again so we can’t rush into it, we commissioned a land use study that’s going provide kind of a baseline for us,” Dolliole said.

The land-use study should be completed by the end of the year.

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