Breaking: I-49 Connector project chief leaves DOTD

by Christiaan Mader

During a relative lull for the chippy design process, Project Manager Toby Picard has left for new pastures.

Toby Picard
Photo by Robin May

I-49 Connector Project Manager Toby Picard has left his post at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and will no longer lead the controversial interstate project. DOTD announced today that Picard will be replaced by Tim Nickel, a senior project manager for the transportation agency.

Picard's departure will certainly change the inter-agency dynamics of the potentially billion dollar project, which of late has seen some acrimony between state and city teams charged with design around the project.

Since the project resumed last fall, the Connector has faced vocal opposition from environmental groups, as well as difficulty building a consensus vision.

Until late last year, state engineers publicly avoided changes that would jeopardize the validity of the Connector's Record of Decision, the federal document designating the roadway's essential geometry and location. Picard stated in public meetings around that time that changes to the ROD could kill the project.

At present, there are more than 19 design modifications in play following extensive planning work performed by DOTD-formed committees of project stakeholders since the start of 2016. DOTD announced in June that it would begin supplemental environmental studies, effectively reopening the Record of Decision.

Connector progress has been on pause until Aug. 3, at which point DOTD will begin new environmental work and resume design activities with a public National Environmental Policy Act meeting.

DOTD reports that Picard has left to purse opportunities outside the state agency. See the official statement below:

Toby Picard, who served as project manager for the I-49 Connector, has recently moved on to pursue a career opportunity outside of DOTD and we wish him the best of luck.

Tim Nickel will serve as the new project manager for the I-49 Connector._