The long-discussed east Mandeville bypass road inched closer to reality Tuesday, when representatives of St. Tammany Parish and Mandeville held a joint news conference to express their commitment to the project.
The proposed 2.5-mile road would run between La. 1088 and U.S. 190, providing additional access to Pelican Park and relieving some of the traffic that chokes the U.S. 190-La. 22 interchange in Mandeville.
Late last month, the parish purchased 296 acres from the state, part of which is to be used for the road.
Parish President Pat Brister, Parish Council Chairman Reid Falconer, Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere and Mandeville Councilman Rick Danielson took turns at the podium to praise the project and extol the cooperation between the parish and city, but it wasn’t always that way.
The project was one of three road projects that were flashpoints of contention between Villere and the Mandeville council last year as the council reviewed Villere’s proposed 2013-14 budget. Danielson proposed that the project be included in the budget, but Villere objected, saying it was a poor use of taxpayer dollars.
On Tuesday, Villere said his hesitancy last year stemmed from his desire to make sure the city could afford the $2.5 million the council voted to allot to the project.
This year, he said, “We are in great shape as far as our fund balances,” and the road “is a need that is going to help a lot of people.” As it turned out, the money wasn’t spent in 2013-14, and Villere included it in his proposed budget for 2014-15.
Danielson said he hopes ground can be broken on the road as early as the fourth quarter of 2015, with construction expected to take about a year. Construction should not disrupt traffic on either 190 or La. 1088, he said.
Total cost for the project could be between $10 million and $12 million, he added.
Pelican Park, the main facility for St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 1, could use the added access the bypass road would provide, Executive Director Kathy Foley said. The park regularly gets 10,000 to 15,000 visitors on a Saturday, and the one two-lane road to the park is often choked with traffic, she said.
The road won’t be Pelican Park’s only benefit from the parish’s deal with the state for the 296 acres, however. The parish plans to make between 50 and 100 acres available to the recreation district for expansion of the 230-acre park. Foley said the district is still studying just how much land it wants and exactly where it would be.
One of the factors that officials have to take into account is two families of red-cockaded woodpeckers that live on the land. The endangered bird imperiled the land purchase until last month, when the parish and state finally reached an agreement.
The parish also plans to make sure part of the property continues to be a mental health facility and to put some of the land into a wetlands mitigation project for future development.