14 Subdivision Preliminary Plats have been approved, three on Appeal/Rehearing after initial denial, by Ascension’s Planning Commission since April 15, 2016. On that date Urban Systems, Inc. delivered its Traffic Impact Policy Review to Ascension’s Department of Public Works in the hope of fixing the “worthless Traffic Impact Studies” required of every subdivision submitted to Ascension Parish. Had its recommendations been implemented none of those subdivisions could have been approved without transportation infrastructure improvements according to Jeff Pettit who uncovered Urban Systems’ work product in response to a records request.
“The Matssa Administration has pulled some fast ones but to bury these recommendations almost leaves me speechless,” Pettit said in a recent interview. “Traffic congestion poses serious risks to the health, safety, and welfare of every citizen because, in large part, our Traffic Impact Study (TIS) procedure is meaningless. We paid Urban Systems nearly $40,000 two years ago in the hope of fixing the fatally flawed TIS and Kenny Matassa hid this potential solution from the people.”
Urban Systems concluded:
“Although the Parish does have rules and guidelines requiring traffic impact studies for new developments, these studies have failed to adequately portray the effect on Parish roadways, both individually and collectively…Without revising the Parish’s traffic impact policies to mitigate the impact of new developments, the roadway system will be underfinanced, overburdened and may not support future growth.”
The lengthy report reviewed methodology employed by a number of nearby parishes in addition to policies employed by Louisiana’s DOTD. Urban Systems undertook its work during former president Tommy Martinez’ last year in office and completed its task in the first months of Matassa’s reign.
Recommendations (by Urban Systems in April of 2016 include the following non-exhaustive items):
“The comparative review of the existing Ascension Parish Traffic Impact Policy and the policies of similar neighboring agencies has uncovered areas that would benefit from modification as well
as effective methods that should be considered. The following policy considerations are proposed to balance growth with capacity in the Parish’s transportation network.”
(1) Criteria for Requiring a Traffic Impact Study
Other than peak hour trips, Ascension Parish policy only identifies high‐accident areas as a factor that can be used to justify expanding the requirements of a traffic impact study. Consideration
should be given to identifying additional factors other than peak hour or daily trips that would warrant more extensive analysis. Examples include:
• High volumes on surrounding roads affecting access to a proposed development
• Lack of existing left turn lanes on adjacent roadways
• Inadequate sight distance at access points
• Proximity of proposed access points to existing drives or intersections
• Developments that include drive‐through operations.
Conclusions and Recommendations. This section should summarize all study area intersections and segments affected by development traffic with respect to the thresholds for Level of Service. Mitigation methods should be identified for each intersection of segment. Acceptable methods of mitigation could include the following:
a. Reduce the size,scale,scope or density of the development to reduce traffic generation
b. Divide the project into phases and authorize only one phase at a time until trafficb capacity is adequate for the next phase of development (consideration should be given to nearby developments proposed during these phases because the responsibility of added traffic would then be shared by more than one party)
c. Dedicate right‐of‐way for street improvements
d. Install additional lanes
e. Redesign ingress and egress to the project to reduce traffic conflicts
f. Install traffic control devices
g. Install signal upgrades/modifications and evaluate signal coordination, when applicable
h. Perform a roundabout analysis using SIDRA or approved equal software. The roundabout analysis worksheets should be included in the study document’s appendices
i. Participate in funding of transportation improvements
The company pocketed $38,711.70 for its trouble, payment received on May 4, 2016. Urban Systems is in line for another $25,000 to be considered at Thursday’s Parish Council meeting where the Consent Agenda includes:
- Approval to allocate $25,000 to update the current traffic impact analysis policy to Urban Systems, Inc. (Transportation Committee Recommendation)
The item was pushed through Transportation Committee on February 5 when Christine Darrah, the April 2016 document’s signing engineer, was introduced by Planning Director Jerome Fournier. None of Transportation’s five members took note of Darrah’s passing reference to a 2016 study…but Jeff Pettit did.
“I made the records request the following afternoon,” Pettit said. “I have to admit how disappointed I am that none of those council members, especially John Cagnolatti who represents me, exerted the minimal effort to find out what happened here. 14 more subdivisions, none of which were required to perform a legitimate Traffic Impact Study, have been approved since Urban Systems alerted the Matassa administration to the fatal flaw in current TIS. Shameful.”
So shameful, in fact, that Pettit intends to challenge Cagnolatti at the polls in 2019.