There was a time in the not so distant past when subdivision development inside the City of Gonzales did not generate public outcry from current residents like that witnessed in Ascension Parish for a decade. That time is gone as infrastructure improvements struggle to keep pace greater demand presented by an ever-increasing population. With no slowdown in residential subdivision development in sight, city officials will be grappling with these issues for the foreseeable future.
In 2021 Gonzales’ elected City Council and the Planning/Zoning Commission it appoints have approved steps to allow another 900 housing units. Occupancy of those units alone, assuming two residents per unit, would increase Gonzales’ population by 15% (the 2020 Census numbered 12,231 city residents). Most of those units will be constructed along the ultra-busy Hwy 30 corridor which affords access to petrochemical plants so vital to the local economy.
Paralleling the Mississippi River, the state highway is the economic engine for an entire region. A substandard Hwy 30, inefficiently moving traffic and not as safe as it should be, jeopardizes all of it. Improving its traffic congestion is a monumental task necessitating a concerted effort of local, state and federal authorities.
The roadway traverses the City of Gonzales from Airline Hwy (30’s eastern terminus) to St. Landry Road on the west side of Interstate 10. A decade has elapsed since discussions began for the construction of roundabouts inside the city (at Interstate 10 and Tanger Outlet Mall’s entrance), a project largely funded by federal dollars. Patience is a necessary virtue awaiting road projects.
DOTD would like to widen Hwy 30 to four lanes over a 20 mile stretch through East Baton Rouge, Iberville and Ascension parishes according to the latter’s Chief Administrative Officer. The state agency advertised bids to perform an Environmental Assessment through Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently. A new bridge across the Mississippi River, long-discussed and highly-desired, will link up with Hwy 30 on the east bank.
Who’s to say when/if it will be built. In the meantime…
Building a 279-unit apartment complex on Cabelas Parkway, with ingress/egress onto Hwy 30, surely will not help. Sportsman’s Park Lofts, for which a 3-2 City Council vote waived residential density limitations, exemplifies the choice facing Gonzales’ elected officialdom. The city is heavily dependent on Sales and Use tax collected in the Hwy 30 corridor and, thus, incentivized to generate more traffic. Is there a point at which the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in?
Viewed as a means to create a customer base for flagging retail outlets (mostly eateries) located along Cabelas Parkway, adverse impact on traffic threatened by such a development was never discussed by the City Council, nor the five-member Planning/Zoning Commission it appoints.
Included in the City of Gonzales’ Comprehensive Plan (adopted in August 2015) is the Capital Region Planning Commission’s Master Transportation Plan 2037. It includes “three phases of funded projects that will increase capacity on Gonzales area roads:
- Phase I improvements are planned for the period from 2013 to 2017 and include intersection improvements on at Cornerview Road at Burnside and Airline Highway at Weber City Road.
- Phase II covers 2018 to 2027 and includes road widening on Interstate 10, LA 30, and Orice Roth Road.
- Phase III covers 2028 to 2037 and includes road widening along Airline Highway.”
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Then there is a potential new I-10 interchange being designed (or not), in part, to divert traffic from Hwy 30. According to Ascension Parish’s MoveAscension website:
- A new connector road is being planned to link LA 30 to “Buzzard Roost”, also known as N. Robert Wilson Rd.
- An air photo showing the approximate position of this future road project is depicted below.
|a. Land / Topo Survey||yes||50%|
|b. Subsurface Utility Eng.||yes||45%|
|c. Geotechnical Testing||yes||0%|
|d. Preliminary Design||yes||0%|
|e. Property Survey||yes||0%|
|f. Right-of-Way Maps||yes||0%|
|g. Final Design||yes||0%|
|h. Utility Relocations||unkn.||0%|
Attempts to divert Hwy 30 traffic are also being undertaken inside Gonzales’ city limits. Last January the City Council authorized $102,732 to acquire acreage necessary to build a connection between Veterans Blvd and S Commerce Street, north of Hwy 30 and east of I-10. Experienced motorists use both to escape traffic congestion on the state highway, accessing Orice Roth and W Worthey roads but…
a new development, Village at Sawgrass, is in the works with 115 residential units nearby.
Further east the city began designing St. Francis Connector Road, running parallel to Hwy 30 to the south, which will link Hwy 44/Burnside to S Darla Street. Most of the road is built as part of Heritage Crossing’s development.
The remainder is up to the City of Gonzales, and St. Elizabeth Hospital which owns the acreage upon which the roadway must be connected to S Darla Ave.
Diverting traffic from Hwy 30 to Hwy 44/S Burnside is part of a concerted economic strategy. There was a time, decades ago, when city fathers viewed the Hwy 44 corridor as Gonzales’ next economic engine. Time and events beyond their control tabbed Hwy 30.
The Edenborne Parkway connector road, constructed by Ascension Parish to link with S St. Landry Ave (Lamar Dixon Expo Center), is an underutilized detour from Hwy 30.