City-parish government launched an effort Tuesday to make sure the planned Interstate 49 Connector through Lafayette does more good than harm.
The state Department of Transportation and Development in October began gathering public input for the design of the mostly elevated 5.5-mile stretch of interstate through Lafayette, a road project that has been discussed for decades.
City-parish government’s work, funded in part by a $304,000 federal grant, is meant to dovetail with that of state transportation officials, addressing primarily how the road will mesh with the surrounding residential and commercial areas.
Although the planned interstate has broad support in the business community and among many elected officials, there are questions about how best to build a new interstate through the middle of Lafayette when so many other cities are tearing them down because the big roads can divide communities and drive away quality development.
City-Parish Mayor-President Joey Durel said Lafayette has the opportunity to “take lemons and make Champagne.”
“We want something that really increases property values and quality of life,” he said.
P lans call for the new interstate to roughly follow the Evangeline Thruway, passing through many areas where Durel said property values have been declining for decades.
The interstate project, if done right, could breathe new life into the Evangeline Thruway corridor, he said.
“One of the most tragic things we can do with this project is to continue to delay it,” Durel said.
Still, there have been rising concerns since DOTD renewed planning for the connector, and in recent project meetings, an apparent disconnect has surfaced between state transportation officials and some locals on how rigidly DOTD wants to adhere to preliminary road design work done years ago.
The city-parish effort will focus less on the actual design of the road and more on how it might fit into the existing landscape of neighborhoods and commercial areas.
“We have to get it right the first time, because we may not be able to fix it,” said City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux.
City-parish government’s work is just beginning, and there is still no formal working agreement with DOTD on how the local planning effort will mesh with the state agency’s work.
City-Parish Chief Development Officer Carlee Alm-LaBar said outreach to gather community input is being planned but no public meetings have been scheduled.