More than 150 residents packed into a meeting Thursday at Woman’s Hospital about a proposed Pecue Lane/Interstate 10 interchange that likely will force three homes to be relocated.
The residents expressed a combination of trepidation over how added traffic and noise could affect their homes as well as excitement for easier access to the interstate. Officials overseeing the project — including those from the city-parish Green Light Plan and the Department of Transportation and Development — want to start construction by spring 2017 provided they can find funding for the $58 million project.
In addition to building the I-10 interchange, the project calls for widening Pecue Lane, replacing the Pecue Lane/Ward Creek bridge and extending Rieger Road to a new intersection with Pecue Lane.
As Pecue Lane resident Clara Woodard looked at the preliminary maps showing where the changes would go into effect, she realized the home she has lived in for more than 50 years appeared to be in the crosshairs of construction. She said she’s attended many meetings about the proposed interchange, but Thursday was the first time she saw clearly that her home could take the brunt of the impact.
“Someone tell them not to do it,” she said.
None of the exact impacts of the project construction are known yet. The design has not been finalized, and it will be months before people know for sure whether they will be forced to relocate. DOTD and Green Light Plan officials could not list with certainty the exact addresses that will be relocated.
However, public comment already has played a role in the project’s plans.
Jonathan Charbonnet, city-parish Green Light Plan program manager, said original designs to widen Pecue would have wiped out many more houses. Once residents questioned that decision, the Pecue widening was rerouted to a field across the street.
Woodard said she does not know where she will move if DOTD buys her home from her. She said she cannot afford a new house note, and she would hope DOTD and the city-parish would reimburse her so she could find a new place to live.
A slideshow that played throughout the meeting informed those in attendance that DOTD intends “to pay just compensation for all properties required for the project.” They also intend to pay relocation assistance, which goes toward moving expenses and replacement housing.
Green Light and DOTD officials also said they expect 12 structures near the interchange to be affected by the additional noise. The project does not include any noise abatement measures or barriers.
Daniel Simpson, a Woodridge subdivision resident, said he’s looking forward to the easier access to the interstate. But the unknowns of the project still worry him.
“Our concern is noise, traffic, safety,” he said.
Briarwood resident Pam Wylie, while pointing out her home on one of the many maps showing the projected interchange, said she was not convinced more homes would not be affected by the noise.
She said her other concerns were mostly about added traffic and the effects on the environment, though a lengthy study concluded the interchange should have no discernible impacts on air quality, water quality, farmlands and more.
“We used to be kind of protected back in here; we’re not anymore,” she said about her subdivision.
The Pecue/I-10 project leaders are moving as quickly as they can to get to construction by next spring. The biggest challenge appears to be finding $36 million in a little more than a year from now to complete the project’s funding.
DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said his office will emphasize how crucial the dollars for the project are when the capital outlay request goes before lawmakers.
If construction does not start by spring 2017, the report that called for the interchange will expire and force project leaders to redo a decade’s worth of work.
“We are committed to not losing that,” Wilson said.