Mayor Hunter tells LaDOTD of LC priorities

Published 6:43 am Friday, February 9, 2024

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development hosted a legislative public hearing for the proposed Highway Priority Construction Program on Thursday in Lake Charles.

Hearings are being hosted throughout Louisiana during the month of February to review the highway construction priorities for fiscal year 2024-25 and garner public perspective and input on local infrastructure needs.

Mayor Nic Hunter spoke at the hearing on priorities in Lake Charles. In November, voters passed LC Rebound – a bond proposal that modernized the tax structure that opened the city up to $190 million in infrastructure and quality-of-life projects. Several state roads are included in this slate of projects.

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He noted that if local stakeholders are taking initiative to get much-needed infrastructure improvements funded, the state should consider that when prioritizing projects.

“In general, I would ask the state to recognize when locals are willing to put skin in the game for state roads, that those projects receive appropriate recognition.”

The Country Club Road widening project is one that Hunter hopes the city will receive LaDOTD assistance on. The city plans to contribute at least 20 percent of the anticipated $50 million cost for the expansion. He said that there is “no way” that the widening and drainage upgrade will be completed without state participation.

He also brought attention to the MLK Hwy. overlay project. This overlay was fully funded, he said, but has been delayed due to “cost overruns and everything under the sun.”

“Our council members, our public, have been crying for this overlay for decades. It is desperately needed.”

While not a state road, Enterprise Boulevard connects the interstate system to a state road. The function of Enterprise should put it on LaDOTD’s radar, he said.

He also said Ryan Street should be “strongly considered” for an overlay.

Hunter thanked the LaDOTD and the state for the fully-funded Nelson Road extension project that is currently underway and for partnership in the citywide drainage improvement project. The city has spent millions of dollars on drainage repair in the past few years; the state agreed to fund half of the upgrades for state roads.

“I’m not an engineer, but you can look at some of the pictures, before and after, of that underground drainage system and it does not take an engineer to tell that what we’re doing is helping.”

He also thanked the local delegation for efforts to remove tolls from the Calcasieu River Bridge project.   

As the project develops over the next six to seven years, he hopes that the state will continue to work to reduce the toll and “keep it at a reasonable rate” while keeping the trucking industry in mind.

The cost for truckers that will have to make multiple trips over the bridge daily is a concern, he said. Worries of how the placement of the bridge will affect ongoing lakefront developments and railroads and pipelines in Westlake should also be addressed by the LaDOTD, according to Hunter.

“We’re hopeful that there are some things that can be done that won’t necessarily cost a lot of money. It just might be where you place an exit.”