YOUNGSVILLE — For months, Youngsville officials have debated why a stretch of Chemin Metairie Parkway Phase I is crumbling after seven years, and they’ve had a lot of discussions about what can be done to fix the problem.
Potholes have appeared in sections of the $7 million, 2.6-mile thoroughfare, which runs from La. 92 to La. 89, past Sugar Mill Pond and the Youngsville Sports Complex.
Officials have decided to temporarily fix the problem with patches while seeking a longer-term solution. They’ve also engaged in discourse that’s been as bumpy as the road.
“No one’s given us an absolute solution as to what’s going to make it hold up,” Councilwoman Brenda Burley said at a special meeting in late August.
“We’ll just get some signs that say, ‘Engineered by Fenstermaker,’ ” Burley said, referring to the city’s engineering company.
Dax Douet, a Fenstermaker employee who also works as Youngsville’s city engineer, took offense to that remark, saying the council knew during the planning period in the mid-2000s that the city didn’t have the money needed to build the road it wanted.
“To state y’all weren’t aware is a false statement. Y’all were aware,” said Douet, who was on the defensive the entire meeting.
Councilman Ken Ritter said the council didn’t know the scope of the road’s problems while approving millions of dollars to spend on other projects this year.
“We could have prioritized our resources, our money and our energy a little differently had we known all this was going to start falling apart,” Ritter, Youngsville’s mayor-elect, said at the special meeting.
Youngsville’s five council members were presented with repair options at the meeting. They included laying 6 inches of concrete pavement on the road at an estimated cost of $3.18 million; spending about $2.7 million to shave a half-inch off the road and lay 5 more inches of asphalt; overlaying phase one with 2 inches of asphalt for around $1 million; or patching the road.
The council opted for the 2-inch asphalt overlay. But recent bids came in over the $1 million the council budgeted, and members decided on temporary patch work, Youngsville manager Rick Garner said.
“I think by patching the road, it buys them (the council) a year or two,” Mayor Wilson Viator said last week. Viator’s third and last term in office ends Dec. 31.
Douet said last week that phase one’s initial design was for a 20-year road that was laid with 9 inches of asphalt at a cost of $12 million. But what the city could afford at the time was a 10-year design that used 4 inches of asphalt, less than half of what was originally proposed.
“At the end of the day, we all want a Cadillac project, but we couldn’t afford that,” Douet said.
Douet said phase one has not lasted the designed 10 years due to the large number of heavy trucks that traverse it. Heavy-hauls carrying dirt, supplies and concrete to Youngsville’s booming residential developments, ubiquitous cane trucks in the winter and other big vehicles have prematurely damaged the road, he said.
The amount of heavy-duty truck traffic was not foreseen at the time the road was designed, Douet said.
Douet said the phase one experience was taken into account when it came time to build Chemin Metairie Parkway Phase II, which opened in spring 2013. This time the city had more money — $12 million. The 2-mile phase two, which runs from La. 89 to Viaulet Road and connects to U.S. 90, was paved with 10 inches of concrete. So far, there have been no problems, he said.
Mayor Viator has defended the decision to build phase one with not enough money and using only 4 inches of asphalt. He reminded the council at the August meeting that Chemin Metairie phase one is the reason residents have flocked to Sugar Mill Pond and also the reason that corporate executives at Rouses decided to build one of their grocery stores in Youngsville.
Viator said last week it’s also led to other commercial construction — CVS, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Ascension Episcopal School and Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy.
“When the road went in, the sales tax (receipts) for Youngsville tripled,” Viator said.
Ritter, who takes the helm as mayor on Jan. 1, acknowledged last week phase one’s economic importance to the city. He also noted the problems Youngsville has had with the road.
In the months after its 2007 opening, it had to close due to sinkage, and the contractor, Glenn Lege Construction, eventually had to repair faulty work. This year, the Veterans Circle roundabout, which was part of the phase one construction, had to be repaired due to potholes.
Ritter said he will pursue Youngsville hiring its own engineer. He said he’s not comfortable with the situation in which a Fenstermaker employee serves as the city engineer, whose job it is to make sure that Fenstermaker’s road designs are good and its project inspections vigorous.