Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

The Mandeville City Council is ready to do something about what Mayor Donald Villere calls the city’s “suicide lane.”

The reference is to a center turning lane in the five-lane section of U.S. 190 that serves as the primary thoroughfare for much of the eastern part of the city.

The council voted unanimously Thursday night to allow the mayor to enter into a $24,000 contract with the Forte and Tablada engineering firm to start looking at ways to eliminate the lane, which was added in a major 2010 project that widened U.S. 190 from two lanes.

“Something needs to be done there from a safety perspective because it is very difficult to get out, particularly from Old Mandeville. I’d like to look at all options,” said Councilman Clay Madden.

Though this represents just the first step in the process of a possible change, Villere already has an idea of what a replacement might look like, saying that replacing the turning lane with a median and openings for U-turns could be a good option.

Craig Toomey, a resident of Mandeville, thinks a change can’t come soon enough.

“I was going to take a left turn down Lafayette Street. Well, one driver thought that center lane was his express passing lane,” Toomey told the council. “And had I not developed a habit of checking my side-view mirrors, I would’ve turned directly into this idiot.”

Councilman John Keller agreed that a change is needed and said that making one would benefit more than just Mandeville. 

“We’re not just dealing with traffic coming out of Old Mandeville. We’re dealing with traffic coming out of Lacombe traveling in this direction. We’re seeing increased traffic going to Pelican Park,” he said. “And so it’s not just the growth in Mandeville. It’s the growth in Lacombe. It’s the growth that’s east of the city that’s going to be using that corridor.”

Villere said the city would enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the state to pay for the project.

Former Councilman Ernest Burguieres, however, said people shouldn’t get their hopes up just yet. He said the project would go to the bottom of the state’s list of priorities, which might mean it wouldn’t be finished for a decade or more.

The five-lane section of U.S. 190 runs from Carondelet Street to just west of Clausel Street.

Follow Nick Reimann on Twitter, @nicksreimann.