I read somewhat recently in The Times-Picayune that the airport had to close one of its runways for rebuilding because the runway was sinking around an underground tunnel connecting Airline Highway and Veterans Memorial Boulevard that Jefferson Parish built but never opened. Is there really an underground tunnel connecting the roads? Why did it never open? What's inside?
The Louis Armstrong International Airport will close the airport's longest runway for renovations beginning on Feb. 15, if all goes as planned, because the airport has received a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to refurbish the east-west runway. The project will actually cost about $50 million and will close the runway for about six months. It's been 20 years since the last refurbishing, and there is much work to do on the 10,000-foot runway.
Part of the problem involves the tunnel you asked about. When it was constructed, it was billed as a tunnel to the future. Instead, it became an underground road to nowhere. Then-Mayor Aaron Broussard proposed the tunnel in the late 1980s as a way to solve traffic congestion problems. The first stage was begun in 1992, after Kenner officials got $8 million in federal money to dig a hole under the east-west runway and start on the 835-foot north-south tunnel.
Today, the empty tunnel -- the joint responsibility of the City of Kenner and the New Orleans Aviation Board -- is closed off at both ends and far from complete. Funds, of course, are the issue. In 1987, engineers estimated that it would cost $28 million, and you can imagine how much the cost has risen in 18 years.
In the meantime, the tunnel is quite a nuisance for the airport. Because it is built on pilings, it doesn't sink; but the runway, which is not on pilings, sags on either side of the tunnel and creates a 3-to-4-inch dip. The runway has been repaired several times, but now instead of patching it up, a decision has been made to rebuild it. In the meantime, the tunnel is kept nice and dry and is well taken care of.
I recently moved here from Baton Rouge and just had a visit from my older sister who is 82 years old. She recalled our grandfather had worked at Lane's Cotton Mill in New Orleans but didn't know much about it except the name. Can you give me a history of the mill? Where was it located? When was it built? My grandfather lived on the corner of Valence and Magazine streets. How would he have gotten to work since he didn't have an automobile?
Lane Cotton Mill was located at 434 Cadiz St. It was just a few blocks from the intersection of Valence and Magazine streets, so Granddad might have walked to work at the mill.
The mill celebrated its 100th anniversary in July 1956. The operation had begun in a small building costing less than $20,000. And 100 years later, it was a $6 million plant employing 1,400 people. The YWCA even opened a lunchroom for the women who worked at the mill. At the time, the mill celebrated its anniversary, it was using 1,000 bales of cotton each week. The workers at the mill would spin, dye, weave and finish the raw cotton. It seemed then that everything was going well, and J.G. Shedd -- vice president and general manager -- announced that improvements to the property were planned.
But a little over a year later, in September 1957, the operator of Lane Cotton Mills, M. Lowenstein & Sons Inc. of New York, decided to close the plant at the end of the year. The problem came from competition in the textile industry in the form of plastics and synthetic materials. City officials tried to prevent the closing, and acting Mayor Victor H. Schiro wrote a letter to the owners urging them to reconsider.