150th Anniversary Celebration (copy)

Lake Charles bus riders may soon enjoy 40 new sheltered bus stops, as city employees are expected to begin installation in 2020. 

Starting next year, city employees are expected to start installing 40 covered bus stops with benches throughout Lake Charles, officials said on Wednesday.

City Council members appointed District F Councilman Johnnie Thibodeaux to review bids submitted for the work.

Council members in July set aside an extra $5 million to pay for various transportation work, such as asphalt overlays, intersection improvements, road striping and sidewalk repairs. Of that total, just over $250,000 will be spent on the sheltered bus stops.

"If it's raining, if it's 100 degrees outside, a lot of those things impact our citizens," Mayor Nic Hunter said. "This is just another way we're trying to improve quality of life for our citizens."

The upcoming work is the "largest improvement for covered bus shelters" the city has seen in two decades, Hunter said. He said the city typically pays for 10 covered bus stops annually.

Hunter said in July that the city already has 53 sheltered stops.

Katie Harrington, city public information officer, said McNeese State University and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital are some areas where more residents regularly use the city's transit system.

Concrete slabs are already being poured at some bus stops, she said. Once the shelters are purchased, city employees will install them, Hunter said.

Chennault agreement

Earlier in the meeting, council members voted unanimously on an agreement with the Chennault International Airport Authority to widen the Merganser Street corridor from two lanes to four lanes.

Kevin Melton, Chennault executive director, said the airport plans to redirect $1.6 million in existing funds to cover the expansion's projected cost. He said Merganser Street is the only current access into Chennault.

Expanding the roadway is needed to allow easier access for tractor-trailers, Melton said. Other traffic includes students attending Sowela Technical Community College and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office deputies heading to the training academy on Mallard Cove Street.

Melton said Chennault is in the middle of a "significantly aggressive growth campaign," which includes growing to 11,000 employees. Calcasieu Parish could get $780 million in sales tax revenue, he said.

"That road as it currently sets is a significant inhibitor to our ability to grow," he said.

The Chennault Board of Commissioners meets at noon today to take action on the agreement between the airport and the city.

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