Proposed toll road loop around Lafayette ‘back on front burner’ _lowres


The final public hearing on the first phase of planning a proposed Lafayette Parish toll loop that touches three neighboring parishes is scheduled for Feb. 28.

The loop, called the Lafayette Regional Xpressway, is not the same as the proposed I-49 Lafayette Connector.

The Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission was created by the Louisiana Legislature in 2003 to consider nontraditional funding sources, including tolls, for building a limited-access highway within Lafayette Parish.

After years of study and public hearings, the commission agreed on a preferred route based on public and stakeholder feedback even though construction will be more expensive than other routes considered, according to the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement.

The outer southern alternative and the common 1 northern alternative were selected for further development and planning, including the Tier 1 Final Impact Statement and Record of Decision and into the Tier 2 planning process.

The 21-mile long, 1-mile wide outer route extends into St. Martin, Iberia, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes. It would start in St. Martin Parish at West Old Spanish Trail/La. 182 near the intersection of La. 182 and Coteau Road/La. 88. It then extends west into Iberia Parish, then into Lafayette and Vermilion parishes for nearly 12 miles to cross the Vermilion River. It then extends to the northwest for more than 5 miles to West Lafayette Road/La. 92 near Maurice, then north into Lafayette Parish for 4 miles, connecting with the northern route at Duhon Road.

The selected northern route, which is entirely in Lafayette Parish, is 15 miles long and about 1 mile wide. It begins at Duhon Road about 3 miles west of the La. 724/Johnston Street intersection, then goes north for about 5.6 miles to Interstate 10, west of Scott. From there the expressway extends north for 5.3 miles to Vatican and northeast for 4.2 miles, ending at Interstate 49 north, near the existing La. 725 interchange near Carencro.

The expressway is expected to connect U.S. 90 south of Lafayette, I-10 west of Lafayette and I-49 north of Lafayette, with entrances and exits proposed at U.S. 90, Johnston Street, I-10, I-49 and possibly other cross streets.

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The ground-level loop will include two 12-foot lanes of traffic in each direction with the space to add two lanes if warranted in the future.

“We’re trying to pull a lot of traffic off main thoroughfares in Lafayette,” Elaine Abell, chairman of the expressway commission, said.

The expressway is expected to ease traffic in Lafayette, she said, and also should help residents in the New Orleans area and to the south of Lafayette evacuate ahead of hurricanes.

Since the highway will run largely through rural territory, it should spur economic development as well, Abell said. One exit, she said, is proposed at Louisiana Highway 88 near Acadiana Regional Airport in Iberia Parish, which should spark economic development there.

The expressway commission and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development are hosting the public hearing from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston St., Lafayette.

Individuals may view exhibits about the plan and speak with the project team from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. A presentation will be made from 6 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. followed by a break. From 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., attendees may provide comments in a moderated forum that will be recorded for the public record.

Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA