Thursday, June 29, 2017

LFT Airport Update

(Why is there a $200 million problem looming at LFT? Be sure to read to the end to find out.)

A presentation on the current status of the Lafayette Airport (LFT) and planned airport renovations was an agenda item for the June 20, 2017 Lafayette City/Parish Council meeting. Presenters were Valerie Garrett, Chairwoman of the Lafayette Airport Commission, and Steven Picou, LFT Executive Director. Paul Guilbeau, Vice-Chairman of the Lafayette Airport Commission was also in attendance. Their summary update document provided by the Council Clerk is available here.

View the 12 minute video of the airport update by clicking here or view it in the frame at the bottom of this post.

LFT Executive Director

Steven Picou's update summarized these points:

  • LFT has hired their Program Management/Construction Management (PMCM) firm
  • 5000 citizens gave public input that contributed to the selection of the Journey renovation design
  • The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)program at LFT is a priority
  • Part 139 inspection had zero discrepancies
  • LFT is prepared for tropical storms and hurricanes
  • Past year's cargo handling of 24.6 million pounds is up from the prior year 
  • The cargo handling facility is opening, UPS and Fed-X are moving in

The I-49 Connector plan requires moving a runway at LFT -

Dr. Michael Waldon asked during public comment if the runway displacement required by the I-49 Connector project would result in any changes to the renovations. He also cited his minimum safety requirement calculation that shows that the displacement would need to be 860 feet rather than the 350 feet stated in the I-49 FEIS. This calculation was published last year in the post titled Airport angles and increased risk. Mr. Picou replied that he had not seen the published recalculation of the displacement. Further, he said that new FAA regulations would require an additional 1000 feet of runway if it is reconstructed. Mr. Picou stated that the airport "has hired a firm to look at that information." Currently the airport is constructing an EMAS system (engineered materials arrestor system) at the end of this runway. He also said that Dr. Kam Movassaghi had led a student design project that might eliminate or reduce the required displacement, but DOTD has not reported any study of such options.

District 9 Councilman Theriot asked whose responsibility would it be if the runway had to be displaced. Mr. Picou answered that FAA has taken the stance that it is not their responsibility, and it is not the airport's responsibility. He went on to say that in his opinion "It is Federal Highways responsibility." FAA takes the stance, he said, that millions of their dollars have already been spent on the airport, and it is not their responsibility.

The bombshell of the evening occurred when Councilman Theriot followed up by asking what the cost would be. Mr. Picou replied that a rough order-of-magnitude estimate is $200 million dollars. In part, this cost is so high because the FAA would no longer allow the use of an EMAS at this end of the runway, which results in an added runway length requirement of 1000 feet.

While there may be intergovernmental discussion of which tax dollars will fund this $200 million (or more), in the every case it is taxpayers who will pay and citizens who will suffer added flooding from the loss of flood storage currently provided to Lafayette and St. Martin Parish residents by the Cypress Island Swamp.

LPC-AirpotUpdate-2017-06-20 from Mike Waldon on Vimeo.