Transportation recommends $190,531 for “Public Outreach” on Move Ascension

“One helluva dollar figure, here” was how Councilman Randy Clouatre described the $190,531 recommended by the Transportation Committee last week for “information and public outreach” about Move Ascension, the parish’s transportation improvement plan launched in 2017.  “A nice, tidy sum,” admitted Councilwoman Teri Casso before she joined her colleagues in unanimously recommending same to the full council. Franklin Associates, the Baton Rouge firm performing a similar function for the Capital City’s Green Light Plan, deemed a wonderful success by President Kenny Matassa’s latest big hire, Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel.

Daniel admitted pushing Assistant DPW Mike Enlow to hire Franklin Associates for the public relations job, characterized as an educational effort to alert residents to Move Ascension’s progress.  According to Enlow the expenditure was part of the original Master Transportation Plan study, tabled in favor of Move Ascension’s emphasis on actual projects.

“I pushed Mike into putting this on the front burner,” Daniel confessed.

The website unveiled by Matassa last November, to “keep residents apprised of the progress in the Parish’s signature Move Ascension Initiative,” must not be getting the job done.

The Green Light Plan is, according to its website:

“(A) comprehensive transportation program to improve roadway infrastructure and citizen safety throughout East Baton Rouge Parish. On October 15, 2005 the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish voted and passed an extension to the current one-half of one percent (1/2%) sales and use tax for local street and roadway improvements. 70% of the proceeds will be used for transportation improvements including the construction of new roads, widening of existing roads, intersection improvements and upgrades to traffic signalization and synchronization.”

While Ascension has no similarly dedicated funding,  Move Ascension now boasts The Green Light Plan’s PR-firm.

Transportation’s chairman, Councilman Aaron Lawler, urged implementation of crack-sealing “to add 5-10 years to the life” of certain parish roads; and delay need (and cost) of road overlay.  HNTB, one of the parish’s go-to engineering firms, deemed the process “extremely inexpensive” (anywhere from $17,000-25,000 per mile of roadway).

Planning Director Jerome Fournier is “trying to promote interconnectivity among subdivisions in the parish” as a way to move traffic.  He presented the following agenda item related to one grouping of subdivisions:

Recommendation to Council to take action to acquire property for the purpose of providing interconnections between Parker Place ll Subdivision and Reese Lane Subdivision. (Jerome Fournier, Planning Director)

Parker Place II’s developer refused access linking Reese Lane.  Both lie in Councilman Lawler’s District 7 but interconnectivity has been “a sore subject for residents” of existing neighborhoods in the past according to five-term council member, Todd Lambert.

“You’re gonna get a lot of opposition,” Lambert told Fournier, citing a similar attempt at Pelican Crossing “a few years ago.”

Many, if not most, subdivisions in Ascension have one ingress/egress point, posing potential disaster if emergency vehicles are blocked from that “one road in, and one road out.”

“Your predecessor was all about interconnectivity,” Councilman Randy Clouatre schooled Fournier.  “Most people looking at the big picture are.”