Oct. 6, 2015 05:50 PM

One Acadiana noted in a press release Tuesday its enthusiasm that its top infrastructure priority, the I-49 Lafayette Connector, has entered into a new planning and design phase. The state Department of Transportation and Development confirmed the planning phase at a launch event at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The I-49 Lafayette Connector will upgrade to interstate standards the 5.5-mile stretch of U.S. 90, running south from I-10 to just beyond Lafayette Regional Airport, representing a critical section linking Lafayette to New Orleans.

“The Lafayette Connector is arguably the most complex and most expensive piece in the I-49 South puzzle,” Joseph Zanco, CFO of Home Bank and chairman of One Acadiana, said in the release. “The advancement of this project is a huge win for Lafayette, Acadiana and the entire state. As I-49 South has been in the works for more than 25 years, entering this planning phase is a major milestone in finishing what we started.”

From One Acadiana's press release:

Completing of I-49 South, from Lafayette to New Orleans, is a top priority for One Acadiana and businesses along the current U.S. 90 corridor. Bringing U.S. 90 up to interstate standards will greatly improve a vital national link to “America’s Energy Corridor” while providing substantial benefits in terms of economic development, safety, evacuation, and traffic congestion relief. Top executives continue to rank a good highway system as the No. 1 or No. 2 most important factor when expanding, relocating, or starting a new business.

In addition to the economic benefits of completing the Lafayette Connector, the business community stressed the connector’s importance as a major gateway.

“The I-49 Lafayette Connector Project offers an opportunity to transform a key gateway corridor from an eyesore to something our community can be proud of,” said Jason El Koubi, President & CEO of One Acadiana. “We now have the ability to integrate state and local planning efforts, most notably through the TIGER grant, and reshape one of the most traveled gateways into Lafayette. By focusing on how the connector will affect residents and businesses, we can better connect and beautify our community. One Acadiana is proud to be a part of this process.”

Given the need to integrate the connector into the Lafayette’s urban core and address community concerns, planning for the connector will incorporate a Context Sensitive Solutions approach to focus on the project’s impact and mitigate any adverse effects. Over the next 18 months, various stakeholders, including members of the general public, will participate in the CSS process with the goal of achieving a collaborative conceptual design for the I-49 Lafayette Connector.

A Community Working Group will be a primary vehicle for public participation in design charrettes, neighborhood walkabouts, educational forums, public meetings and workshops. The design consultants will maintain a project office at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center to ensure broad public engagement.

Doug Place, CAO of Dupré Logistics, LLC and Co-chair of One Acadiana’s transportation committee, commented, “As an active director on the boards of both One Acadiana and the I-49 South Coalition, I am thrilled to see this kind of forward momentum on such an important project. I am equally impressed by DOTD’s consideration of the stakeholders involved and continued efforts to include the public in this process.”

More than 100 of the planned 160 miles of I-49 South are complete or currently under construction. Most of the remaining sections of I-49 South to Raceland are already far enough along in the design process to begin construction immediately. Completing the Lafayette Connector is a major step in completing I-49 South.

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