Business News

City releases I-49 workshop reports

by Christiaan Mader

Neighborhoods along the proposed I-49 Connector weigh in on the controversial interstate project.

Residents discuss the Connector at an ECI workshop for the Downtown district.
Photo courtesy LCG

Planners with the city's Evangeline Corridor Initiative have released reports detailing public input from a series of open design workshops held in May. The reports cover five study districts adjacent to the proposed I-49 Connector footprint, collating community feedback that will ultimately be delivered to state transportation officials in charge of building the controversial interstate project.

"They want to safeguard their communities and their culture," says Bill Hunter of Architect's Southwest, the city's contractor in charge of the workshops. "They want their children to attend good schools. They want access to decent healthcare. They want to see economic growth and longevity."

Each report reproduces an overview of values within each district covering economic development, culture and history, entertainment, safety, infrastructure, beautification, housing, recreation and environment. See below for links to the district reports:

McComb - Veazey

Downtown/Freetown - Port Rico

Sterling Grove/Simcoe/LaPlace

Vermilion River Recreational District

Gateway District

Funded by a competitive federal grant won in 2014, ECI — also known as the TIGER team, in reference to the grant that funded it —was charged with planning for neighborhoods along the Evangeline Thruway, in response to the Connector's design and construction.

The workshops produced a cut and cover design alternative for the Connector which generated some controversy between state and city officials over the role the ECI team ought to play in design activities. While DOTD did not include the alternative in its first round of refinements for the project, officials with the department have signaled an intention to study the concept going forward.

DOTD suspended ongoing design activities in June to begin work on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, a more in-depth study approach than the re-evaluation process begun last fall.

Early in the project's renewal last fall, the Connector's design team publicly avoided re-opening the environmental studies completed in 2003, fearing such a move could kill the decades-old project. Federal regulations require that outdated environmental documents be amended should significant changes occur in the corridor of study.

Toby Picard, DOTD's project manager for the Connector, left the department earlier this month.

Public design activities will resume August 3 with an Open House Public Meeting at the Progressive Outreach Center located at 125 Gallian Street in Lafayette, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.