Welsh hopes state funds can spark economic development

Published 11:33 am Thursday, August 4, 2022

The town of Welsh is in line to receive $500,000 in state funding to extend the Frontage Road off Interstate 10 which officials hope will spark economic development in the area.

The money is in Priority 2 of the state’s capital outlay budget, according to State Rep. Troy Romero. Romero addressed the council this week on upcoming road projects in the area.

“The $500,000 has been placed in Priority 2 of the state’s capital outlay plan at the request of the city to expand the service road from East Joseph to La. 99 and open up a corridor that would provide space for people to be able to put in retail space along the interstate,” Romero said.

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“That is in Priority 2 which means it is still waiting for funding, but we are hopeful there will be dollars available maybe before the end of the year where you can take that money and begin to spec that project and get the engineering done,” Romero continued. “Then money will follow to be able to do the work.”

The project will begin at the I-10 exit and go east to Joseph Street and connect to the other Frontage Road that is currently a dead end.

“That’s something I have been trying to get done since I have been in office,” Mayor Karl Arceneaux said. “It could be our own little power center right in Welsh.”

Arceneaux said the initial funding is to provide for the design and survey cost. Additional funding for construction, which would be a near certainty, would likely follow within two years, he said.

The town plans to use part of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)  funds to match the capital outlay funds.

Having the initial money placed in the Priority 2 plan means the project is one step closer to reality, Arceneaux said.

“I think it is our best shot at economic development because most national chains that want to come to Welsh want to be located on I-10 whether it’s a Sonics or a big box store,” Arceneaux said.

He said the local John Deere dealership is looking to relocate out-of-town because no large-sized property was available.

“Had that Frontage Road been in place we could have probably kept them here,” he said.

Nearly 61 acres would be available for development once the road is open, Arceneaux said. The property will be available for fair market value and will be divided as needed for future businesses, he said.

“That would be a big bonus for the town because there is really no property on main street in Welsh when you exit that is deep enough for a decent size business,” he said.

In other road projects, Romero said efforts to repair the Welsh overpass are underway after three years.

“I think it will change the appearance of the town of Welsh as you approach from the interstate,” Romero said. “It will give you a more beautiful place to look at as you exit.”

The town is also currently working to secure a grant to install new LED lights at the exit ramps. A similar project is being sought in Jennings.

“The towns are going to LEDs which are less expensive to run,” Romero said. “They also last longer and they look a whole lot better.”

In other local road projects, Romero said the new Bayou Bridge west of the U.S. 90 and La. 26 intersection between Jennings and Roanoke is scheduled to be completed by this fall. The bridge has been closed since May to allow crews to replace the bridge.

An overlay project is currently underway on La. 102 from Hathaway High School to La. 99.

The project is expected to be completed in two months, according to Department of Transportation and Development staff.

Romero said the district has also been awarded $2.4 million to fund additional road improvements including U.S. 90 from Elizabeth Street in Welsh to La. 382 between Welsh and Roanoke.

Other future projects would include road work on U.S. 90 in Jennings from the foot of the overpass bridge to the intersection of Shankland and Cutting Avenue in Jennings and from the corner of La. 97 and Cutting Avenue south to the railroad on U.S. 90 in Jennings. No dates have been set for the projects.