State Bond Commission OKs funding for secondary access route to Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Ascension _lowres


Outgoing Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said Wednesday that he’s hopeful construction on a secondary access route to Lamar-Dixon Expo Center could start in early spring, though he’d like it to be sooner.

Martinez had vowed to find money for a 1-mile road connecting Lamar-Dixon to the nearby Edenborne mixed-use development in Gonzales after his administration whiffed on a competitive federal highway grant last year.

State government has helped Martinez deliver on that promise.

The state capital outlay budget for the new fiscal year has $5.2 million for the first phase of the road and, on July 16, the State Bond Commission approved a line of credit to provide cash for a variety of projects, including the connector road.

Martinez, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley and other officials in Ascension’s chemical corridor have shown interest in the road as a second way in and out of Lamar-Dixon and, with an additional extension, as another route away from Geismar-area chemical plants on the Mississippi River during a major accident.

Martinez said the parish’s legislative delegation sent letters supporting the road to the 247-acre, parish-owned livestock and events complex off La. 30, which also is used as a regional emergency response hub during hurricanes.

“It’s a good project,” Martinez said.

He is leaving office at the end of the year, but several candidates for parish president have expressed support for the road.

Martinez said the road, once built, will be the first new road parish government has built in years.

State Sen. Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, said $1.1 million for the road was in the previous year’s capital outlay budget and the delegation was able to get another $4.1 million in this year’s bill. Though the Legislature routinely fills the annual capital outlay bill with more projects than the state can afford, all the money for the connector road is in priority one this year, a signal the money will be available.

Amedee said parish officials will now work with state Office of Facility Planning and Control to get the road plans approved.

Once that happens, Amedee said, parish officials can access the money any time in the next year.

The first phase of the road project will connect South St. Landry Avenue, which ties Lamar-Dixon to La. 30, to the existing main artery through the private Edenborne development.

West Edenborne Parkway ties into La. 44 just south of Interstate 10. With the future connector, traffic to and from Lamar-Dixon will have two I-10 exits to use, at La. 44 and La. 30, instead of one.

The 340-acre Edenborne is home to River Parishes Community College and is planned as a mixed residential and commercial area.

The second phase of the connector road, if funded, would head west from South St. Landry and tie into Ashland Road, a commuter route for workers at Geismar-area plants on River Road.

In 2014, parish consulting engineers designed a four-lane version of the connector in an unsuccessful bid for $12 million from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant program.

Martinez said the state capital outlay dollars recently approved are just about enough to pay for a two-lane version of the first phase of the connector road, though he said the parish may have to provide some money to cover any small shortfall.

He said the parish is working on land acquisition for a four-lane version of the road — Martinez said most landowners have agreed to donate property — and is waiting on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit.

He said early estimates are that the first phase will require about $300,000 in wetlands mitigation, which the capital outlay money should cover.

Martinez said the second phase of the road to Ashland would go entirely through parish-owned land. That section is undergoing an environmental assessment. Martinez said the next segment could be started within a year, as well.

“The goal is to connect all of them,” Martinez said.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.