Ascension getting into Traffic Signal business so developer can sell residential lots

Ascension Parish, apparently, is getting into the traffic signal business.  It is, not surprisingly, to accommodate two new subdivisions near the Germany/Braud road intersection where the signal will be installed.  Since the parish lacks the expertise to operate traffic signals an outside traffic engineer has to be hired so that Highland Trace and Lake at West Creek (subsequently renamed we’ve heard) can issue Certificates of Occupancy and sell 168 lots.

NOTE: From the official minutes of the September 12, 2018 Planning Commission meeting (when both subdivisions were approved with the same conditions):

“Moved by Mr. Julio Dumas, seconded by Mr. Ken Firmin and unanimously adopted, to approve this preliminary subdivision plat consistent with the ordinance prohibiting any issuance of any certificate of occupancies (sic) on this development until such time as either the round-a-bout is completed and operational or there is a traffic signal light at this intersection (Germany Road and Braud Road) that has been constructed and put into operation and incorporated into the traffic signal system of the Parish.”

It would be the first traffic signal operated by Ascension Parish.

The subdivisions were the first to be approved after more stringent Traffic Impact Studies were required of developers.  Since that meeting only one subdivision, The Villas at Rosewood, has been approved (October of 2018).

On Tuesday Ascension’s Council Transportation Committee is set to consider a contract between the parish an Gresham Smith, a Traffic Engineering Consultant that President Clint Cointment attempted to hire without committee recommendation.  On the May 21 agenda for the full council, Assistant Infrastructure Director Joey Tureau explained the parish required its own traffic engineer because, in part, Ascension is about to have its first traffic signal on parish roads.

In addition to expertise in traffic signal operation, the proposed contract scope would task Gresham Smith with:


I. Gresham Smith will provide 3rd party reviews of traffic studies performed for the PARISH by others. These studies could include:
a. Traffic Impact Studies performed for new developments or redevelopment.
b. Traffic Signal Warrants or Signal Timing Studies
c. Turn Lane Warrants Studies
d. Sight Distance Studies for no passing zones or intersection improvements
e. Traffic Studies for capacity improvements for roadway and intersection modifications.
f. Stage Zero Traffic Studies
g. Access Management or Safety Studies
h. Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) for temporary construction closures.

Too bad the firm was not around to “provide 3rd party reviews” of the Highland Trace and Lake at West Creek traffic studies in September 2018.  The Planning Department’s current Engineering Review Agent, CSRS, Inc., is a rubber stamp barely critiquing traffic and drainage studies submitted by developers.  But the Chairman of the Transportation Committee does not see it that way.

Councilman Aaron Lawler…

Urban Systems buried traffic analysis on Transportation agenda (two years late); another $250,000 for HNTB

decried the hiring of Gresham Smith since CSRS is already handsomely remunerated.  But CSRS, apparently, cannot help the parish out when it comes to traffic signal operation.  Valued at $49,500, the Gresham Smith contract does not have to go out for bid but a suddenly cost conscious Lawler criticized the practice, even taking to social media to proclaim:

1. Standard procedure is for contracts to go through committees absent an emergency situation, which this is not. I get suspicious when there is a blatant deviation from standard procedure to award a no bid contract for 49,500, something the past administration was roundly criticized for. If they anticipate that this contract will require more than 49,500 worth of expense, this needs to be bid.
2. Transportation is the proper committee for this.
3. Not a no vote, but a vote to send it to committee, which does not kill it.

Lawler moved to send the Gresham Smith contract to his Transportation Committee where it appears on the agenda Tuesday.