Building a new Interstate 10-Calcasieu River bridge, completing the Enterprise Boulevard extension and replacing the Cameron Ferry were among the requests state legislators heard Tuesday during a public hearing at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
The annual "Road Show" meeting gave Joint Highway Priority Construction Committee members the chance to hear feedback on the proposed state highway construction priorities and improvements for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The event was held for the state Department of Transportation and Development's District 7, which includes Calcasieu, Beauregard, Allen, Jeff Davis and Cameron parishes.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said a new I-10 bridge is the top priority for Southwest Louisiana and likely the southern U.S.
"We beseech our counterparts on the state and federal level to realize the significance of this bridge and its replacement," he said.
Hunter, along with District A City Councilwoman Mary Morris, expressed the need for capital outlay funding to extend Enterprise Boulevard north to access U.S. 171. It would benefit the North Lake Charles area and provide another south-to-north evacuation route, Hunter said.
A $90 million bond issue approved by city voters in 2006 helped cover a $12.5 million extension of Enterprise Boulevard north of I-10 to Katherine Street. Morris mentioned a feasibility study that estimated the cost of completing the extension to be between $30-40 million. The economic impact could reach $1.2 billion, she said. The project would open up the community Morris represents, which currently is stagnate, she said.
"Hopefully, you can look at this information and be able to see that we need this highway also," Morris said.
State Rep. Phillip Tarver, who sits on the committee, said extending Enterprise Boulevard would boost the local economy and bring the local community together.
"When you get traffic flow, you get commerce," said Tarver, R-Lake Charles. "Sometimes you've got to build it, and they will come."
Clair Marceaux, Cameron Port director, told the committee about the need to replace the Cameron Ferry quickly. A new ferry is one of 10 projects that will be covered with $700 million in BP oil settlement funds set aside in House Bill 578, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed last June.
"Those dollars won't begin to flow until 2021," said Shawn Wilson, DOTD secretary. "We are in the process of finding the most efficient and affordable way to leverage those dollars to get construction of a new ferry as soon as possible."
State Rep. Ryan Bourriaque, R-Cameron, said the region needs to figure out the best way to quickly secure money for a new ferry.
Extending Nelson Road and building a bridge over Contraband Bayou has been a long time coming, Hunter said. The DOTD highway priority program lists this project as being scheduled for construction in the upcoming fiscal year.
Hunter also spoke of the need to improve access to Chennault International Airport.
"Chennault, for us, means economic diversity," he said. "They are expanding significant investments every day."
Hunter said Sowela Technical Community College should be "more of a campus area" and not have local traffic driving through the heart of the school.
Earlier in the day, the committee held a hearing in Lafayette. Public hearings are scheduled today in New Orleans and Mandeville. Additional hearings are set for Feb. 18 in Winnsboro and Monroe.
The committee will accept written statements postmarked within 45 days of the hearing. They can be mailed to Joint Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee C/O LA DOTD (Section 85) P.O. Box 94245, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9245.