Hwy 30 needs major upgrade, local efforts focus on diverting traffic

Running south of Heritage Crossing, the developer will build much of St. Francis Connector Road.

Attempts to improve Ascension’s road network, effective or not, have focused on the parish’s northern traffic corridors.  Those efforts include Louisiana DOTD’s major projects on Hwy 73 and Hwy 42 (the latter’s completion date was recently backed up to this summer) and Ascension’s MoveAscension initiative, begun in 2017.  Understandable given the horde of new residents choking Prairieville’s roadways, but shortsighted when you stop to consider Ascension Parish’s other, arguably most vital, traffic corridor.

Hwy 30 accesses all those petrochemical plants, except for CF Industries on the west bank, without which Ascension would struggle to make ends meet like most of its neighboring parishes.  A well-regarded public school system, top notch law enforcement with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, a parish government able to attempt major drainage (and smaller road) projects; none of it would be possible without those petrochemical plants.

In the process of building a roundabout on Hwy 44 south of Gonzales, DOTD made substantial upgrades to Hwy 22 in Sorrento.  Hwy 30’s time has come.

Paralleling the Mississippi River, the state highway is the economic engine for an entire region.  DOTD and the federal government understand the gravity, as do Ascension Parish and the City of Gonzales.  A substandard Hwy 30, inefficiently moving traffic and not as safe as it should be, jeopardizes all of it.

Improving Hwy 30’s 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.  Nearly 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.  From the City Engineer:

LADOTD is working with utility companies to relocate critical utility lines that are in conflict with the required drainage system upgrades related to the new roadway infrastructure.  Utility agreement are due to LADOTD from each private utility company by May 28, 2021. Until utility agreements are received, DOTD will not know the level of impact and extent of relocation activities.

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.

Projects of such magnitude, if they ever happen, won’t be anytime soon.  Locally, the City of Gonzales and Ascension Parish are doing what they can to divert traffic from Hwy 30.

On January 25 Gonzales’ 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.  Geotechnical design and surveying has been completed with 60% of engineering design accomplished.

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 will be built as part of Heritage Crossing’s development (see image above), hopefully completed by the end of May.  The remainder is up to the city which submitted its environmental analysis to the Corps of Engineers last year; surveying is 90% complete and preliminary design work began in January.

Ascension Parish has built two roads to divert Hwy 30 traffic.  The first, Edenborne Parkway Connector to St. Landry Road and Lamar Dixon Expo Center was done in 2018 but is as underutilized as any in the parish.  Recently completed Ashland Road’s half-mile connection to St. Landry, affords access to Edenborne Parkway and the I-10 on-ramp at Hwy 44.

The big-ticket item on the parish’s wish-list…

Part of I-10 interchange plan, rules suspended to approve Buzzard Roost Industrial Park

is a connection from Hwy 30, north toward Cornverview Road and/or Hwy 74 where it will, fingers crossed, access a new I-10 interchange.  Design of that connector was added to the MoveAscension project list recently.  Since FHWA requires an Interchange Justification Report before authorization will be forthcoming, DOTD will advertise studies of Cornverview and Hwy 74.

If/when the interchange comes to pass, the parish’s next phase would focus on access to I-10 from Hwy 30 (north-south) and Hwy 73 (east-west).