Traffic Impact Analysis in action: Evelyn Estates approval conditioned on intersection improvements

Evelyn Estates, a 43-lot subdivision proposed on 24.75 acres north of Cornerview Road and half-a-mile east of Hwy 73 received preliminary plat approval from a unanimous Planning Commission on Wednesday.  The approval was conditioned upon major improvements at two intersections which, more likely than not, means the subdivision will never be built.

“If, in return for a relatively small subdivision, costly road improvements are accomplished on this highly-congested road it is an absolute win for Ascension Parish,” assessed Jeff Pettit, the candidate to unseat the District 10 Council incumbent. “These proceedings are prove positive that more stringent Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) required of every development are effective when applied.”

Pettit reserved particular praise for Commissioner Wade Schexnaydre and Legal Counsel Cody Martin.  It was Schexnaydre who initiated the discussion of new TIA requirements after Commissioner Ken Firmin’s motion, seconded by Commissioner Morrie Bishop, to approve without requiring any road improvements at all.  Schexnaydre asked the legal adviser to explain the policy’s requirements.

“There’s a mandatory requirement that says, in the case where existing Level of Service is below a ‘D”, required mitigating improvements shall improve that Level of Service to a ‘D’ or better,” Cody Martin read directly from the TIA policy.  “So, they would have to improve the intersection to  a ‘D’ or better in order to get approval on this,” he concluded.

Martin’s interpretation was challenged by the traffic engineer who had performed the Traffic Impact Analysis, an analysis which rated two intersections “F” during peak drive times.  The TIA recommended either roundabouts or traffic signals at Cornerview’s intersection with Chester Diez Road and Hwy 73.

Nick Ferlito (from the Neel- Schaffer website)

Nick Ferlito of Neel-Schaffer Engineering, destroying whatever credibility he possessed before Wednesday’s meeting, attempted to counter the legal adviser:

“The way that policy is written, the way I interpret that is, if the existing Levels of Service is a ‘D’ or below, the Traffic Impact study should look at mitigations to improve that existing Level of Service ‘D’.  It doesn’t necessarily say that the developer is responsible to implement those mitigations.  But the study should look at measures…It doesn’t say the developer has to implement them.”

Just who Ferlito believes would be responsible for implementing “those mitigations” is a mystery.

Commissioner Schexnaydre was not convinced.  He repeated the request for legal advice.

“I think it’s pretty clear guys.  You may disapprove under certain conditions, the proposed project will overburden the existing roadway system by causing a reduction in service.  If it’s already below a Level of Service ‘D’ you have to disapprove.”

With the facts, and the policy, on his side, Wade Schexnaydre offered a substitute motion “to approve with the condition that both intersections with current Level of Service ‘F’ are improved to Level of Service ‘D’ or better” before Evelyn Estates can be built.

His motion was adopted unanimously.

“What more can we expect?” Jeff Pettit observed.  “Applying the new policy as it was written ensures that real, tangible infrastructure is in place before further burdening already overburdened roadways.”