Walter Pierce

Stimulus priorities questioned

by Walter Pierce

Members of the Lafayette Consolidated Council questioned traffic and transportation officials about some $21 million dollars in highway projects and transit-system upgrades, roughly $9.5 million of which would be paid for through federal stimulus funding, during a largely low-key discussion period Monday evening.

LCG’s traffic and transportation department previously presented local government with a list of sought-after projects generated by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which develops priorities for infrastructure projects through volunteer committees. Those projects include construction of a roundabout on La. 93 south of Interstate 10 in Scott, overlaying University Street between Pinhook Road and Carencro, and upgrading the lighting at the I-10/I-49 interchange.

At one point during Monday evening’s discussion, City-Parish President Joey Durel expressed frustration with the list of priorities developed by the MPO. Durel has promoted expanding U.S. Hwy. 90 from Pinhook Road to Broussard into a six-lane roadway. The MPO selected instead a much more modest priority for the highway: converting a mile of U.S. 90 between Morgan Street and Albertson Parkway in Broussard from four to six lanes. Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais attended the meeting in support of the Morgan-to-Albertson Parkway widening.

“It just seems to me we haven’t put any effort into getting the state to do the work,” Durel said of the Pinhook-to-Broussard project. Bill Fontenot, state Deparartment of Transportation and Development administrator for the Acadiana region, explained that the MPO’s priority list is based on the likelihood of securing stimulus funding, which hinges on the project being ready to start within 90 days, or “shovel ready,” as per the term du jour.

Tony Tramel, LCG’s traffic chief, acknowledged that the $5.2 million list of potential upgrades to the city’s bus system is an either/or proposition.

“We can’t have our cake and eat it, too?” asked District 3 councilman Brandon Shelvin, referring on the one side to a proposed $2.5 million upgrade to the Rosa Parks Transportation Center downtown and on the other side to the remaining $2.7 million split among 13 other projects including the purchase of two new buses, hurricane-proofing bus shelters and upgrading transit communications systems. Tramel indicated that the level of stimulus funding would allow LCG to either upgrade the Rosa Parks Transportation Center or do the other 13 projects, but not to do both.