A Better SWLA: LC-LF-AX Airport

by Leslie Turk

Why leadership in Lafayette, Lake Charles and Alexandria should look beyond their existing small local horizons and take it to the "20-thousand-foot" level.

[Editor's Note: City-Parish President Joey Durel's Feb. 5 State of the Parish address, in particular the "one cent, one year, one project" funding initiative he proposed for improvements to the Lafayette airport, prompted KPLC TV7 Vice President and General Manager Jim Serra to reanalyze the issue of airport infrastructure in our region of the state. Serra's editorial is posted below in its entirety and with his permission.]

Every once in a while we revisit a topic editorially.

Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel's recent "State of the Parish" address gives us that opportunity. The subject matter impacts not only all of Acadiana but Southwest and Central Louisiana as well.

Durel cited the aging and inadequate passenger terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport. He's right. I visited there a couple weeks ago and found the terminal shockingly outdated and completely unbefitting one of America's most progressive cities.

Remember when Lafayette had the nice airport and Lake Charles had the dingy one? Now the tables are turned. Lake Charles Regional's post-Rita terminal is a showplace, a wonderful first and last taste of Southwest Louisiana for air travelers here.

But the real focus of this commentary is to urge leaders of both cities plus Alexandria to look beyond their existing small local horizons and take it to the "20-thousand-foot" level.

The triangle formed by these cities is one of the fastest-growing economic regions in America. In terms of air travel and shipping, we are stronger together than we are each "going it alone." The time is now to begin a feasibility study on an international passenger and cargo airport which would be located somewhere in the middle and serve the millions who will live within this triangle sooner than we realize.

Somewhere north of Jennings comes to mind. Jeff Davis Parish, you're in the catbird seat.

The Coushatta Tribe has also expressed an interest in investing its casino revenues into other economic development initiatives from its reservation located not far away from a possible airport location.

Right now we're enjoying a natural gas boom. But all booms eventually end. A shared international airport will pay dividends for many decades to come if our region's leaders come together to begin the admittedly long process now. It's one of the most critical components to launch the future of a better Acadiana, a better CenLa and a better Southwest Louisiana.