Ask The Advocate: Not a very welcoming sight, yet .... _lowres

Photo provided by DOTD Work continues at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center off Interstate 10 in St. Martin Parish. The $3.8 million rehabilitation may be finished sometime this winter.

The project to revamp the parking lot at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center on Interstate 10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge has taken a year and a half and still isn’t anywhere near finished. On Sept. 22, I stopped to use the facility. It seems as big of a mess as it was three months ago.

Deidra Druilhet, a public information officer with the state Department of Transportation and Development, says the Atchafalaya Welcome Center, on I-10 in St. Martin Parish, is currently undergoing a $3.8 million rehabilitation, which involves more than just addressing the parking area.

The project includes renovating the north restroom building, replacing the water service tank and chlorine system, adding an emergency generator, replacing the sewer treatment plant, adding pavilions, rehabilitating high-mast lighting, adding a new main entrance drive and entrance sign, adding a guard shack with security surveillance throughout the grounds and renovating the front entrance walkway with a relocation of the Airborne Memorial to that location.

“The project has experienced some delay throughout construction since certain aspects of the project cannot be performed in adverse weather conditions,” Druilhet said .

“The location of the welcome center, in a marsh setting, has also resulted in the contractor having to address the area’s unique geographic elements, which at times can affect how a certain aspect of construction is conducted.

“Additionally, due to a change in scope, adjustments were made to the plans to incorporate more modern systems and methods, which allowed for days to be negotiated to the contract.

“So, please keep in mind that this project primarily involves rehabilitation work, which can be a lengthier process considering the contractor is removing older items and replacing them with newer items without damaging the existing structures.

“Currently, the contractor is performing electrical work and installing irrigation, security system and signs.

“While we do understand the motorist’s concerns, the project is still within the current contract time. The department has also worked with the contractor to maintain access to the welcome center and restroom facilities throughout construction.”

Druilhet said the project is estimated to be completed this winter.

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