Walter Pierce

Funding dilemma: stimulus road projects on the agenda

by Walter Pierce

Residents in Lafayette Parish could know by sometime Tuesday night, probably late, how nearly $10 million in federal stimulus dollars for road projects will be divvied up. Consolidated council members will choose from a list of 17 projects with a total cost of more than $33 million. One big caveat hangs over the decision-making process: Each project must be ready to start within one year.

One of the largest projects, and the only one with multi-parish support, is a $5.5 million widening of U.S. Hwy. 90 in Broussard from four lanes to six lanes (Morgan Street to the Cade overpass). The project has been endorsed, understandably, by Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais, but St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier and state Sen. Troy Hebert of Jeanerette have also expressed support for the project. It would complement an already funded $20 million state project to widen Hwy. 90 from Pinhook Road to Morgan Street in Broussard.

Also among the big-ticket candidates are a $7 million reconstruction of University Avenue from Pinhook Road to Carencro and a $3.4 million reconstruction job on Evangeline Thruway between Pinhook and Interstate 10. The council could, however, elect to play small ball and fund a host of smaller projects including the construction of traffic roundabouts across the parish.

Also under consideration will be proposed upgrades to the city’s transit system. Among those proposals are a $2.5 million upgrade to the Rosa Parks Transportation Center downtown and $2.7 million split among 13 other projects including the purchase of two new buses, hurricane-proofing bus shelters and upgrading transit communications systems. However, the transportation department informed the council about a month ago that the transit funding is an either/or proposition: Either upgrade the downtown transportation hub or fund the 13 other projects, but not both.