Thruway redevelopment team concerned about I-49 plans

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LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – A team working on plans to redevelop Evangeline Thruway and surrounding neighborhoods when the Interstate 49 connector is built wants I-49 planners to address its concerns before dismissing any of the design options under consideration.

The Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment Team approved a motion Monday asking the I-49 Lafayette Connector Project team not to take any options off the table until there’s more discussion about the team’s concerns and questions are answered.

Following months of meetings and feedback, consultants with the LCP presented two options for an elevated interstate and two options for a tunnel version.

A three-hour presentation and discussion between the ETRT and LCP teams Nov. 30 left many questions unanswered, ETRT member Kevin Blanchard wrote in an email to the LCP.

“We have a responsibility to think about how the neighborhoods fit into the larger equation,” Blanchard told The Daily Advertiser Wednesday. “And as an advisory board to the Lafayette City-Parish Council, we always try to keep an eye on what are the eventual local responsibilities. The end result of our work is to come up with some infrastructure proposals and recommendations to the council. You can’t really separate that from the interstate.”

The ETRT was appointed after Lafayette Consolidated Government was awarded a $304,000 federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) planning grant that will be matched by more than $196,000 in local money. The goal is to design plans to help strengthen neighborhoods near the proposed interstate and optimize opportunities in the area.

Leading the LCP team, a separate entity from the ETRT, are consultants hired by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to design the I-49 connector through Lafayette.

One clarification the ETRT wants involves cost estimates. On the surface, cost estimates consultants provided for the elevated options and tunnel options appear clear. It would cost about $400 million for the elevated version and $800 million for the tunnel, Blanchard said. But it’s not clear how consultants came up with those numbers, he added.

The tunnel version proposed by ETRT after meeting with residents near the interstate route wasn’t intended to be a 1.5-mile long tunnel, Blanchard said, but a partial cut and cover to reduce noise and provide connectivity. The cost estimate is for a 1.5-mile long tunnel with a large embankment and jet engine turbine. It includes all the bells and whistles, he said.

The elevated version is a bare-bones model that doesn’t include the cost of the much-touted signature bridge, so naturally the cost estimate is lower.

“We basically asked them to show their work, their math,” Blanchard said.

The LCP’s community working group meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Heymann Park Recreation Center, 1500 S. Orange St. in Lafayette. The public is invited.

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