The revived planning work for Interstate 49 through Lafayette hit early bumps last year over concerns about state officials clinging to a preliminary design developed a decade ago.
In the months since, the state Department of Transportation and Development has responded by broadening the discussion to include 11 possible tweaks of the initial design — all of which will be explored at a public meeting set for April 27 at the Progressive Community Outreach Center on Gallian Street in Lafayette.
DOTD officials have not committed to any changes but have said they will evaluate the new ideas and hope to begin focusing on viable alternatives by early summer.
Meanwhile, some community leaders want to broaden the discussion even more.
Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque, who serves on one of the committees tasked with reviewing plans for I-49, said he was frustrated early on by what he felt was a lack of interest in considering all the possibilities for the 5.5-mile stretch of I-49 through Lafayette.
Now that DOTD seems willing to consider options, Conque said he wants to see a robust discussion.
“It just opens the conversation to a lot of possibilities,” he said. “I’m not opposed to the corridor. I am just looking for the best-case scenario to move vehicles from point A to point B with the least disruption to surrounding neighborhoods.”
Conque said he believes DOTD should, among other things, rethink the amount of the interstate to be elevated and whether the road needs to be six lanes wide.
John Arceneaux, who serves on the I-49 Community Work Group with Conque, has questioned whether the interstate should be built at all, considering cities across the country are tearing down big elevated roadways, which have been blamed for dividing communities and driving away quality development.
At a meeting last week, Arceneaux suggested the Evangeline Thruway — the path of the planned interstate — could instead be retooled into a boulevard designed to handle high traffic.
The boulevard idea has been discussed off and on in recent months but has yet to gain traction.
The design alternatives up for review April 27 are a mix of minor and major changes, from reconsidering the elevation of different sections of the road to removing one or more interchanges.
An alternative proposed by Lafayette city-parish planners would scrap planned interstate interchanges in the downtown area at Second and Third streets and Johnston Street.
That would address concerns about the interchanges eating up too much land and about vehicles zooming off the interstate through the downtown area, where planners would rather see slower traffic to make the area friendlier for bicyclists, walkers and developers.
The city-parish proposal also would elevate the interstate near downtown.
In the preliminary DOTD design, the interstate is near ground level between the interchange for Second and Third streets and the nearby Johnson Street interchange, creating what city-parish planners and others fear might be too much of a barrier between downtown and neighborhoods on the other side of the road.
Also on the table at the meeting this month are more general ideas not directly affecting the design of the road itself, such as adding more safe pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians in and around the interstate corridor.
The April 27 meeting is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Residents may view and asked questions about the proposed interstate designs and offer feedback.
For information about the meeting, visit Lafayette connector.com.