On Monday a 3-1 vote of the Parish Council’s Transportation Committee recommended that Ascension take over two highways and five frontage roads from the State of Louisiana in return for $4.8 million. The amount represents 40 years of maintenance cost anticipated by Louisiana DOTD to maintain Hwy 930, Hwy 934 (Gold Place Rd), and certain unidentified frontage roads; and the parish can utilize those dollars as it sees fit. If the full council agrees those dollars will go to rebuild Hwy 930.
The Council’s longest serving member, Todd Lambert’s opposition is borne of 19 years’ worth of experience in such matters.
“Basically, the parish is coming in to bail (DOTD) out like we do a lot of times,” he said. “Once we use up those credits…it’s on the parish then.”
Lambert has seen it all before. A decade ago Ascension took Joe Sevario Rd from the state and paid to resurface “one little section” from Hwy 933 to Hwy 42. That costs $5 million according to the District 9 councilman and now “we’re fixing to re-widen and resurface it again.”
Hwy 930, as substandard as any parish road, is included in the Move Ascension road improvement program’s second phase…
Lambert “want(s) to see the first phase of this project completed before taking in any state highways.” He also wondered if “the credits received overcome the long-term” maintenance burden being assumed?
According to Assistant DPW Director Mike Enlow the total cost of construction for Hwy 930 is $8.5 million; $4.5 million in pure construction cost and $4 million in utilities relocation. Enlow explained that $2 million of the latter can be saved by re-design. Which means $1.7 million must come from somewhere else.
Funds earmarked for Roddy and Henry roads will be diverted and there will be “a scaling back of widening Hwy 931 and Hwy 933.”
DOTD will disperse the $4.8 total credits over three fiscal years with $1.7 available “immediately” in return for Ascension’s taking in Hwy 930.
Committee Chairman Aaron Lawler, accompanied in the majority by Council Chairman Bill Dawson and Councilman Randy Clouatre, is the loudest proponent of the deal. He noted that, “Several years ago” there was a traffic fatality near Prairieville Middle School, which Hwy 930 “bypasses.”
Nobody asked in that fatality whether it was a state road or a parish road. It is a dangerous road,” proclaimed the chairman. “We have a lot of dangerous roads and we can’t continue to sit around on our hands in the parish and say, ‘you know what, that’s the state’s problem.'”
It is a point no one would, or could argue. The question has been raised though; why not one of those other dangerous roads. Coincidentally(?), Hwy 930 bisects the controversial Jamestown Crossing which was approved by the parish Planning Commission on May 9.
Jamestown Crossing is targeted for property owned by Councilwoman Teri Casso who also sits on the Transportation Committee. Casso and Councilman John Cagnolatti, were absent from Monday’s meeting.