Interstate-10 East Visitor’s Center to open soon
by GINGER BROOMES
Anyone traveling from east Texas into western Louisiana on Interstate 10 is familiar with the unfinished complex to their right. The construction site has been a fixture for three years now.
Once home to the Vinton Welcome Center, it was the first building visitors saw coming into Louisiana from the west, a place to rest from a long road trip and research places to explore in the Sportsman’s Paradise state.
In 2015, the old original rest area was in desperate need of an update, and needed to be brought into ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliance. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development decided to tear down the old structure and start over, a process that, at the time, was to take two years to completion at a cost of $16 million.
According to Tammy York, Public Information Officer for the Department of Transportation in Lake Charles, this new rest area will be larger than the former building, and will feature more modern conveniences such as a larger vending area, closed circuit surveillance for security and a large patio that overlooks Lake Bienvenue.
That same lake is the source of the one-year delay in opening the center.
Between the floods in spring of 2016, and then, of course, Harvey, the center that was expected to open in 2017 is now tentatively scheduled for late this year.
The cost of construction is now estimated to be $18 million due to equipment upgrades.
“The new building and additional outside structures were raised up to five feet to combat potential flooding,” York said. “The preventive measure of raising the structure was part of the original proposal.”
“The new rest area grounds have a compact layout which allows for more parking for vehicles, trucks, RVs and buses. The rest area will also have four bioretention gardens which will have the functional purpose of managing water runoff while being aesthetically pleasing.”
It is hoped that by the time the holidays roll around, the first impression of Louisiana will be a welcome center backed up to a beautiful lake, once again becoming a welcoming place for travelers.
The Vinton Welcome Center is currently being reconstructed at its former location.