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Work on flyover ramp to new MSY could finish earlier than expected

DOTD secretary warns of congestion at times during the work, but says project could be finished as soon as 2021 instead of as late as 2024

NEW ORLEANS — Drivers traveling along Interstate 10 in Kenner should expect to see crews at work in the coming weeks as they begin construction on the $125.6 million flyover ramps to the new Armstrong International Airport.

But those crews should not be around as long as first expected, Louisiana DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said.

Work on the new $1 billion terminal began years before a contract for the flyover ramps was even written.

“There was no funding … in place to make that happen,” said Wilson, who took over as the state DOTD secretary just days before a groundbreaking ceremony for the new terminal in January 2016.

The first plans, drawn up in 2018, called for the new ramps to be completed as long as four years after the terminal opened. That opening date, however, has shifted several times and is now set only for sometime this fall.

In the meantime, construction at Loyola Drive and Veterans Boulevard is largely done. Loyola widened to allow more cars to get to and from the terminal while work on the flyover ramps is underway.

RELATED: MSY officials don’t expect any new delays for new terminal – but there’s still no opening date

The DOTD signed a notice to proceed, which formally begins the flyover ramp construction process, with Gilchrist Construction Co. on Aug. 30.

“The days have already started being counted,” Wilson said of the paperwork being signed. “You may not see the full construction (yet) … but they are actually working on the project.”

Visible work is expected to begin early next year.

An Aug. 30 press release from the DOTD said the ramps are now expected to open in late 2022, years earlier than first projected. But Wilson recently told WWL-TV that it could be done as soon as 2021.

However, the DOTD on Sept. 16 said its press release was incorrect and that the work is expected to wrap in 2023.

The ramp construction is being done in phases as a design-build project, meaning the design and construction will happen at the same time, which is expected to lead to a shorter construction window.

RELATED: Billion dollar terminal at Armstrong airport set to open this fall despite problems

Wilson warned of some “very minor” congestion as work begins and said the interstate could be closed at times when crews need to hang beams across the roadway.

“Will there be congestion? Absolutely,” he said. “On occasion you will see congestion, as you do, on existing highways that are maximized already and totally built.”

WWL-TV reporter Paul Dudley contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a corrected completion date from the Louisiana DOTD.