Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 6:36 PM
Formation of a committee to explore issues related to the anticipated construction boom in Southwest Louisiana over the next few years represents a positive, proactive approach.
The Southwest Louisiana Task Force for Growth and Opportunity, or GO Group, contains representatives of agencies such as the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Sheriff’s Office and School Board, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance and the West Calcasieu Chamber, the Port of Lake Charles, the Cities of Lake Charles and Sulphur, and IMCAL.
Sasol announced late last year that it will spend as much as $21 billion to build gas-to-liquids and ethane cracker units in Westlake. Those two projects along will likely employ 7,000 construction workers at peak time.
Other projects like the LNG refits by Chenier in lower western Cameron Parish, Sempra at Hackberry and Trunkline in southern Calcasieu Parish, the Leucadia gasification project along the Calcasieu Ship Channel, the Magnolia LNG facility and the G2X Energy’s gas-to-liquids plant planned for the Industrial Canal and the construction of the Ameristar casino could swell the construction workers in Southwest Louisiana to 20,000 in coming years.
Such a surge would place the obvious strain on infrastructure like housing, roads, school and hospitals.
But what of the unanticipated kinks? Think about the nightmare of a mile-long freight train blocking the Sampson Street, Miller Avenue and Prater Road entrances into Westlake for 15 to 20 minutes around 6:15 a.m. With 7,000 workers trying to get to the Sasol construction site all at once, traffic could be backed up on the I-10 bridge and beyond.
If it hasn’t already, the committee might do well to compare notes with other cities across the nation that have experienced large construction booms.
Thinking out of the box likely will come in handy as well, like employing shuttle buses or staggering the beginning and end of construction work days to help alleviate traffic jams.
No matter how much planning goes into it, just like a war-time battle plan, well-thought-out plans are normally good up until the first bullet is fired.
That shouldn’t deter the committee.
With these growing pains will also come the type of economic opportunity that is unprecedented in Southwest Louisiana’s history.
Port Director Bill Rase may have put it best when he told the American Press, ‘‘There needs to be a plan to make sure the community is not caught in an embarrassing position to not handle the good fortune that is bestowed up us.’’
We’re comforted and encouraged that our area leaders are already anticipating the problems and working on solutions that this ‘‘good fortune’’ will bring us.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.