It could be years, if ever, before a new roadway and bridge is built across the Vermilion River in south Lafayette, but the city-parish administration is considering paying $1 million to buy about 24 acres to secure rights of way for the proposed South City Parkway extension.
The administration will introduce an ordinance at Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting to declare the project a public necessity, which would open the legal door for buying land for the route from willing sellers or through expropriation.
The exact path of the new road has yet to be determined, but the initial 24 acres that city-parish government is eyeing surely will be needed and the owners are willing to sell, said City-Parish Public Works Director Kevin Blanchard.
The alignment of the road is expected to be hashed out in a recently begun 18-month study of the pros and cons of various routes, Blanchard said, and residents will have ample opportunity for input.
“The process is going to take a while, but it will be very public and very transparent,” he said.
South City Parkway has emerged in the past two years as a top priority for City-Parish President Joey Durel’s administration.
The Vermilion River slices through the heart of Lafayette, and any new river crossing likely would improve traffic flow.
But city-parish traffic engineers have said extending South City from Robley Drive over the river to Verot School Road could offer dramatic relief for Ambassador Caffery Parkway and other congested thoroughfares in the area.
“It’s the one that will make the biggest future impact,” Blanchard said.
Another advantage of the South City project is that it would cut through a relatively undeveloped part of the parish, though residents in the area are nonetheless concerned about the impact of a major road.
Still unclear is whether incoming City-Parish President Joel Robideaux will take to the proposed road project as enthusiastically as Durel, who is leaving office after three terms.
Robideaux, who starts his first term in January, said in an interview before his election that he is not opposed to the South City extension but that city-parish government should carefully explore a range of other options to improve traffic in the area before moving forward on South City.
“I’m not as sold on that being the one shining example of what’s needed more than everything else,” he said.