Elevated interchange proposed

WESTLAKE — The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has presented its latest plan to address Sampson Street access during future construction of a new Interstate 10-Calcasieu River Bridge.

The department and representatives of HNTB Corporation, the project’s consulting firm, presented Preliminary Build Alternative 5-G during a public meeting Thursday, recommending solutions to address the concerns of residents voiced during an August 2017 meeting.

“We got a lot of feedback saying, ‘We really want an interchange in Westlake that crosses over the railroad tracks,’” Eric Kalivoda, LaDOTD deputy secretary said. “This new alternative is complicated but provides a good finished product and we wanted to get people’s reaction to that tonight.”

PBA 5-G features a fully directional, elevated interchange over Sampson Street and would require the relocation of pipe racks and railroad spurs. The project would take about four years to complete with Sampson Street being closed for 18-24 months.

“It’s going to be very difficult, because there are going to be times when Sampson Street is going to be closed and you can’t make all the normal connections,” Lynn Maloney-Mujica, HNTB Corporation’s senior environmental planner, said.

During various phases of the Sampson Street closures, Westlake drivers would have to utilize existing routes like Miller Avenue and Trousdale Road to access the interstate.

“Everything will be constructed in phases, so not everything will be closed at one time,” she said. “It’s not impossible. It’s just not going to be wonderful in the short-term. The trade off for that is once it’s built, you will never get caught behind a train again,” she said.

The exact type of bridge to cross the Calcasieu River has yet to be determined, Kalivoda said. It will be built north of the current bridge between the Westlake railroad tracks and the bridge. The 73-foot-tall new bridge will feature six lanes constructed of reinforced concrete creating a “much stouter” structure, he said.

Final paperwork and approvals are expected to be completed in the spring of 2021, with construction expected to last two years, he said. The current bridge will remain operational throughout the construction period.

Funding for the project will be comprised of federal, state, private and tolls. LaDOTD requested a gas tax in 2017 to pay for the construction, but the proposal failed.

“That may change in the next year or so, we’ll see, if it doesn’t we’re going to wind up using tolls to pay for this part of the bridge,” Kalivoda said.

The public is invited to review and provide feedback on the Preliminary Built Alternative plans online at www.i10lakecharles.comor by mailing comments to I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge Project, c/o HNTB Corporation 10000 Perkins Rowe, Suite 640, Baton Rouge, LA 70810. All comments must be submitted or postmarked by May 5, 2019.

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