Planning For The Future

As part of the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport’s recently-released master plan, steps are being taken to expand the facility’s runway capabilities.

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Midstream operations at the Port of South Louisiana.

Situated along the Mississippi River, the Port of South Louisiana has always been an attractive destination for a variety of industries because of its diverse multimodal capabilities. 

Be it by ship, by rail, or by truck, the infrastructure in and around the Port District offers efficient logistical solutions for companies seeking ways to import and export raw materials or finish products. If a tenant needs to get cargo from here to there or from there to here, the Port of South Louisiana takes great pride in ensuring that task gets done. 

In that same spirit, a facet of the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport (KAPS) master plan issued to the FAA in 2022 includes expansion plans that would add yet another “mode” to the Port’s intermodal capacities — namely, the ability to send and receive cargo via the air.

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“The Port is in the business of moving cargo, and cargo is a worldwide business, so having the ability to do that with cargo planes right here makes a lot of sense on many levels,” said George Groh, Managing Principal of Kutchins & Groh, a respective airport consulting firm that’s handling the implementation of the KAPS master plan. “It’s all tied together — the railroad, to the interstate, to the water, and then to the airport. It’s all part of making sure you have a complete facility, and making sure you’re fully intermodal to address the needs of moving cargo.”

In order to add that aerial logistical option for companies, though, the airport would have to extend its current runway — which stretches 5,000 feet — by roughly 20 percent to accommodate cargo planes for landing and takeoff. And while the overall surface area of the airport offers plenty of unused space for hangars and other future facilities, the portion of land needed to lengthen the runway to 6,500 feet butted up against a levee project designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

Working together, the Port and the Corps drafted designs that realign the levee so that it slightly juts out north and then back in the area where a runway expansion would eventually take place. Once the Corps finishes levee construction adjacent to the airport, the Port would then have clearance to begin its runway project.

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While there’s no definitive timetable for runway expansion to commence, Groh said he’s hopeful it could start within three years.

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Hangars and available property at KAPS. Photo courtesy of Garrett Crawford Productions

“Once the levee is moved and completed, from there, there shouldn’t be any major difficulties in expanding the current runway the additional 1,500 feet,” Groh said. “The construction of this runway expansion likely won’t be much different than the original runway expansion (4,000 feet to 5,000 feet) when the port acquired day-to-day operation of the airport from the parish.”

Once the runway expansion is complete, the airport’s master plan outlines several additional actions/steps needed to facilitate the anticipated growth in traffic when larger planes (specifically cargo planes) can land and takeoff from KAPS. In particular, the Port would like to construct temporary cargo facilities on the airport grounds suited to handle specific storage needs of various materials. Furthermore, there could be a need to add, lengthen or widen services roads leading to and from the airport, along with constructing additional hangars to accommodate these new, larger planes, and revamp the current terminal or build a new terminal.    

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“Unlike a lot of airports in the area, [KAPS] has room to grow and opportunities to serve as a ‘reliever’ airport to places like New Orleans International Airport,” Groh said. “That’s why it was important to work with the Corps to relocate the levee and ensure that when the time comes, the airport will be ready for growth and ready to serve the needs of the community.”

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