Ascension Parish Councilman Todd Lambert is making a push to remove speed cushions on Tiggy Duplessis Road that have long been a source of driver complaints but that also have been seen by others as a needed safety measure on a busy two-lane road.
For the past two months, Lambert has argued against the cushions, which he says constituents complain are a problem for vehicle front ends and suspensions, and that he says are a constant upkeep problem and long-term liability risk for the parish.
“Our speed cushions are damaging vehicles (that) we’re going to be responsible for. It’s like anything else. We’re liable for our roads,” he told the Council Transportation Committee on June 10.
Tiggy Duplessis Road is a traffic cut-through in a part of the greater Gonzales area near La. 621, La. 73 and Interstate 10 traditionally known as Duplessis. The area is between Dutchtown to the west and Prairieville to the north.
The cushions were installed with the backing of former Council Chairman Pat Bell in August 2008. Facing residents’ calls to remove them in the years afterward, then-Councilman Bell, then-parish DPW Director Ronnie Fairchild and sheriff’s deputies later defended the cushions — citing a reduction in accidents — as a measure that improved driver safety on the narrow road.
The cushions were installed after the death in February 2006 of Bell’s father-in-law and longtime former School Board member W.P. “Tiggy” Duplessis. Duplessis, 95, was hit by a car on the road bearing his name while he was out getting his mail.
One resident who opposed the cushions and the later lowering of the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph in March 2010 welcomed the change Lambert is proposing.
Robert Marting, 75, who had not heard about Lambert’s proposal, said Monday that he sent him and Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee packets in the mail a year ago, arguing for the speed cushions’ removal. Tiggy Duplessis Road divides Lambert’s and Satterlee’s council districts.
“My, that sounds great. I don’t use that road hardly at all any more, not unless it’s really necessary,” Marting, who lives in the Bayou Grand neighborhood near Tiggy Duplessis Road, said.
Lambert won unanimous backing from the Council Transportation Committee on June 10 to remove the speed cushions and the item was set for a final council vote Thursday in Gonzales, but current Council Chairman Chris Loar pulled the item Monday after Satterlee raised concerns.
Satterlee, who now represents Bell’s old Council District 4 after unseating him in a tough, close run-off election in November 2011, said he wants more time to look at the issue and talk with Lambert.
Satterlee said he has heard from constituents on both sides of the issue: some who see the speed cushions as obstacles harmful to their cars and others who see them as improving safety.
“This is one of those situations that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he said.
He said he would like to ask residents to collect signatures for a petition to remove the cushions. He said 75 percent would have to agree.
In an interview Monday, Jason Taylor, parish engineer, said his department takes the view that the council voted to put the speed cushions in and the council has the prerogative to remove them.
“That is not a decision the administration would make,” added Lester Kenyon, parish government spokesman, during the interview.
Taylor checked an LSU database of accidents on Tiggy Duplessis that have been reported to state highway officials. He said he found seven between 2008 and 2011, or fewer than three per year. Those crashes resulted in 11 injuries.
In May 2010, Sheriff’s Office officials, relying on their own statistics, said the road averaged 9.1 accidents per year between 1999 and 2007.
Taylor added that there are other ways to slow traffic on Tiggy Duplessis Road besides the cushions, such as medians.
Lambert and Bell did not return calls for comment by deadline Monday.