Acadiana Business

La. 1 a good example for I-49 South

by Patrick Flanagan

Local officials, in their search for a funding mechanism to pay for the completion of I-49 South, and the costly elevation of the Evangeline Thruway, look to the successes of Lafourche Parish, where a similar project is under way. The completion of I-49 South largely hinges on finding a funding mechanism for the development of an elevated connection above the Evangeline Thruway.

The problem, which is not new, was the focus of Tuesday morning's joint meeting between the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's Energy and Public Policy divisions.

Lafayette Chamber Vice President Bruce Conque says this morning's joint meeting featured Henri Boulet, executive director of the Louisiana 1 Coalition.

La. 1 runs through Lafourche Parish, and in some areas, the roadway lies below sea level, says Conque.

"The existing roadway near Port Fourchon gets inundated with water every time there's a major storm, so they're building an elevated highway from the port to Golden Meadow, and it's been somewhat successful," Conque tells IND Monthly. "One segment is already done and they're proceeding on the rest."

Conque says Boulet provided expertise this morning on his experiences bringing together private and public revenue streams to make the La. 1 elevation a reality.

Translating the La. 1 Coalition's success here may prove difficult, but elevating I-49 along the current stretch of Evangeline Thruway is at the forefront of the Lafayette Chamber's agenda going forward, Conque says.

La. 1 - as would be the case for the I-49 elevation through Lafayette - is a toll way. But, Conque says with cost estimations between $900 million and $1 billion, more funding sources must be identified to pay for the elevation of the existing Evangeline Thruway.

"Studies show the toll will not pay for connector," Conque says. "Right now we have to come up with ideas."

For years, Lafayette's chamber has led the push to finish I-49 South, but Conque says support has grown, adding two other "initiatives" also will be "major players" going forward, including the Acadiana Regional Alliance and the Super Regional Alliance.

Next Tuesday, Conque says the Regional Alliance will meet with state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, at the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, to further discuss the interstate's completion.

"Bret Allain has made it his personal mission to see the construction of I-49 South, but we need more than just a political approach, we'll need stakeholders - the companies that are serviced by I-49 to get behind this as well," says Conque. "Certainly the chamber can provide the leadership, but we can't do this alone."