River crossing eyed to ease Ambassador Caffery traffic _lowres

Traffic moves slowly along a congested section of Ambassador Caffery Parkway near the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette.

You either can’t stand the traffic in Lafayette or perhaps have grown accustomed to it, respondents to the Lafayette Power Poll indicated.

And everyone has their idea of where the worst location is and how to remedy the situation. Almost half of the respondents to our monthly Power Poll indicated city and parish leaders along with state legislative delegation should improve the city’s current infrastructure instead of creating new roads to alleviate the issue.

Some recommended reviving a loop proposal that surfaced years ago. And nearly two-thirds of the respondents still believe in the Interstate 49 Connector project and how it can help the move traffic through the city.

“The dismal condition of roads and bridges is also a part of the problem,” said Barry Ancelet, founder of Festival Acadiens et Creoles. “A history of poor maintenance and neglect have made a bad problem even worse. More efficient public transportation and bike lanes might help some, but Lafayette will continue to be plagued with overwhelming automobile traffic since so many drive into the city to work and shop and attend events.”

How does Lafayette’s traffic patterns rank among other cities? And is it really worse than other places or does it just seem bad to local drivers? The recent Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2021 Mobility Report indicated the average Lafayette driver was delayed 29 hours in 2019 because of traffic. That 2019 total was less than Lake Charles (38 hours) and the Mandeville/Covington area (37) but more than Shreveport (28) — which has a system of loops around the city — and Monroe (18).

The hours of delay were higher in New Orleans (54) and Baton Rouge (61).

Patterns in 2020 dipped in Lafayette and everywhere else because of COVID-19 and fewer vehicles on the road.

“So many changes need to be made together to help alleviate the traffic situation,” said Anne Falgout, executive director of the Vermilion Economic Development Alliance. “We could improve connectivity and create better linkages between roadways. Adding more thoroughfares where frequent stops were eliminated — perhaps a loop — would also help move that rush hours traffic more efficiently.”

About half of respondents favored investing in the current highway system with either expansions or redesigns, while 32% favored reviving the Lafayette Regional Xpressway idea from years ago that involved a loop around the west side of Lafayette Parish. About 13% favored the city investing in alternate modes of transportation, such as public transit or bike lanes, to get more cars off the road.

The expressway, which was hatched in 2003 when the state created the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission, last held a public hearing in early 2019.

A majority of respondents graded their ability to get around the city in a timely manner was either fair (41%) or not good (40%). About 11% graded it good, and 7% rated it awful.

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But where in Lafayette do people say traffic backs up the worst? When asked, “If it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening, which of these locations would you not want to be?” respondents heavily favored two locations:

The intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Kaliste Saloom Road (40%)

The section of Johnston Street between the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Camellia Boulevard (36%).

As for the I-49 Connector, about 63% responded that the 5.5-mile project will help improve traffic flow through the Lafayette area. That project will get about $50 million in federal money, part of $10 billion Congress set aside for transportation projects as part of a stimulus bill Congress passed in December.

When asked how the city’s highway infrastructure got this way, half of the respondents cited poor planning from local leaders years ago and 26% said more emphasis has been put on building new roads leading out of the city instead of the improving the current roadways.

Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Acadiana Advocate Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of leaders from various sectors throughout Acadiana, it does afford nonpartisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of the community. Of 188 Power Poll members surveyed, 55 voted for a participation rate of 29.3%.

The Acadiana Advocate Power Poll is a partnership between the news organization and powerpoll.com, a nonpartisan survey, news and information company focused on the opinions of influential people. Powerpoll.com is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and surveys in 26 metropolitan markets.

Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.