LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – The idea for a highway loop around Lafayette has been around since the 1950s. Six decades later, that vision appears to be stronger than ever.
A commission that’s been around since the early 2000s has placed the project on the front burner.
The proposed Lafayette Regional Expressway or LRX is meant to relive some of the congestion that’s so common on Acadiana roadways.
The LRS would be a 36 mile, four-lane toll road around the western side of Acadiana with controlled access exits.
Supporters say it would also spur economic development and provide another hurricane evacuation route.
“I think they had been talking about a loop for so long around Lafayette Parish and we had missed out,” said Elaine Abell, chairman of the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission, which is spearheading the project.
The state legislature created the commission in 2003.
“I think we do it right we’ll be an example for the rest of the state how to do a toll road. That’s how firmly I believe in this,” Abell said.
Former DOTD Secretary Dr. Kam Movassaghi is an advisor for the commission.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, Movassaghi said. “It takes so many years to plan it and plan it right and to make sure that you can put it in place in the right way.”
The northern leg of the Lafayette Regional Expressway would be about 15 miles going from I-10 in Scott/Duson to I-49 in Carencro.
The southern leg would go 21 miles from I-10 to LA 88 in Iberia Parish.
The expressway would provide easy access to the Acadiana Regional Airport and the Port of Iberia.
Commission members estimate tolls would be 13 cents per mile or $4.68 to drive from one end to the other. Tolls for 18 wheelers would cost more.
“We want to make it something which would be appealing. People would want to go use it and and pay the money,” Movassaghi said.
The estimated cost for the highway is $1.2 billion. Tolls would fund about 20-percent.
“The toll road doesn’t pay for the entire thing so you’ve got to be looking at public private partnerships, there may be some federal monies involved in it, state monies,” explained Bill Oliver, the DOTD District Administrator.
More than a hundred people attended a public hearing in Lafayette last week to learn more about the project.
“It’s really needed. The infrastructure around Lafayette is really not good. It’s not right,” said Robert Bixenman of Milton.
“I’m not opposed to saying Lafayette needs some kind of flow, traffic issues. I just don’t know if this is the right idea,” said Leslie LeBlanc of Ridge.
The commission will be taking written comments until March 18.
The comments and documents will then be submitted to the federal government for review.
Commission members are hopeful the expressway can be built in the next five to ten years.