OAK GROVE — State highway officials have released a draft environmental assessment for a proposed 3.7-mile, $43.5 million expansion of La. 42 from Airline Highway east to 1,500 feet past La. 44 near Woodhaven Drive in Ascension Parish.

The plan received a mix of comments Tuesday during an open house at Oak Grove Primary School, where more than 65 people reviewed aerial maps and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development displays.

DOTD spokesman Dustin Annison has said the purpose of the open house is to solicit comments on the environmental assessment before it is submitted to the Federal Highway Administration.

If the assessment is approved, Annison said, DOTD can continue with final design and right of way acquisition. The environmetnal assessment determines the effects from the preferred design alternative.

Narrowed from three earlier options, the preferred expansion is generally a four-lane highway with a median, dedicated right-turn lanes, left turns limited primarily to U-turns about every half-mile and restricted driveway access, the document says.

The expansion proposes 6-foot sidewalks or a 10-foot multiuse lane for people and bicycles along La. 42. It would require 18.7 acres of new rights of way, affecting up to 170 properties and eliminating many driveways on La. 42.

One house and seven businesses are also proposed for relocation, the assessment says.

The registered Thompson Oak on the north side of La. 42 near the Cully Broussard Road to the east must be removed, as well as two oaks in front of the historic Dixon House. Some land near Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetery and Oak Grove Community Park would be taken, according to the EA.

Traffic volumes on La. 42 have been projected to more than double between 2006 and 2030. The proposed expansion would improve the level of service on La. 42 to primarily a “D” or “C” by 2030 from the current “E” or “F.”

Bert Moore, DOTD district traffic operations engineer, said a “C” means up to a 30-second delay during the peak times; a “D” is a 40- to 60-second delay; and an “F” means more than a minute of delay.

Residents gave mixed reviews about the La. 42 plans.

Pete Joury, 37, of Baton Rouge, said he likes the sidewalks and bike path. “I couldn’t be more excited about this,” said Joury, who is buying a house off the highway.

Roger Mayes, who co-owns Louisiana Nursery, which has a location on La. 42, said it is a plus any time a business is located on a highway being improved but he would like to see La. 42 five-laned and treated more as a business corridor.

“They just need more ways to get to businesses. Look, any way you cut it, this is a business corridor. It’s going to be a business corridor, and people are going to get to businesses one way or another,” he said.

Ninety-five percent of the property along La. 42 in the expansion area is zoned commercial, according to the EA. About 70 businesses sit along the highway, the EA says.

Ascension Parish Councilman Chris Loar said parish officials are discussing the possibility of buying land next to Oak Grove Community Park to replace what is lost. He said that the effort behind the La. 42 project shows DOTD is taking seriously Ascension’s No. 1 road priority.

Written comments can be mailed to La. DOTD,

Environmental Engineer Administrator, P.O. Box 94245, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9245, within 10 days and be in the official transcript.

ON THE INTERNET:

http://www.dotd.louisiana.gov/administration/public_info/projects/la42/