CARENCRO, La. (KLFY) — Preparing for Louisiana’s first Amazon Fulfillment Center will not happen overnight, and one of the biggest impacts will be felt on the community’s roads.
Wednesday, people had the opportunity to give feedback on what projects they want to be done during an Acadiana Metropolitan Planning Organization town hall. At the event, News 10’s asked Carencro officials their suggestions.
“We’re playing catch up to try and catch up to this sudden explosion that we’re having in businesses here,” stated Don Chauvin, Carencro’s city manager.
First, it was Super 1 in 2012. Then Walmart in 2017. Now Amazon is expecting to open in Carencro by October. With it comes at least 500 jobs, equating to tons of trucks entering and exiting Interstate-49, but also hundreds of employees.
All that traffic in Carencro will be on the frontage road East of I-49, but City Manager Don Chauvin says where they connect to the Interstate has become a problem.
“Things that were done five years ago don’t seem adequate today,” Chauvin said of the Hector Connoly Interchange. “The roundabout that worked so well for so many years now seems too small.”
Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux added the intersection north of the Amazon Center is the most dangerous area, and he tries to avoid it. “On the East side of I-49, you’re taking your life in your own hands there on a daily basis,” Brasseaux said. “And it only gets worse with Amazon.”
Brasseaux explained he’s tried to install a light at the Hector Connoly intersection for a decade, but the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (D.O.T.D.) won’t allow it.
“They (D.O.T.D.) are saying they can’t do it because of federal highway regulations, and you have to be so many feet away from the intersection. Bottom line is other intersections are like it. Gloria Switch, and it works fine there.”
Gloria Switch Road has been the solution for many existing trucks entering and exiting the interstate because it has a light. We witnessed FedEx trucks that have a center in front of Amazon’s facility using the Gloria Switch exit exclusively. We found an Amazon Truck Wednesday afternoon which went the opposite direction.
Carencro officials said they may install signs directing Amazon trucks toward Gloria Switch before October, and they hope to speak with Amazon officials once construction is complete to coordinate shift changes away from major rush hours.
“I think that’s the key to a lot of our traffic issues, for that not to become another traffic issue,” Chauvin said.
Mayor Brasseaux added, “We’ve got to sit down with the Amazons of the world, and they have been very responsive to our requests since day one.”
There is a D.O.T.D. project to expand the Hector Connoly roundabout set in June, but those plans were drafted before Amazon had any intention of coming to Carencro, so city officials doubt it will have a substantial impact.
Sara Gary, Transportation Director Acadiana Planning Commission, said that the roundabout is “over-capacity” and “creates a lot of traffic issues”. She said any new federal projects would take time, usually five to ten years.
Chauvin said even they can’t get a light on the Eastside of I-49 where they want most, a new light is planned on the Westside of I-49 in the near future. Mayor Brasseaux said he wished more people would have attended Wednesday’s public hearing. Officials far outnumbered the public which were encouraged to attend and give imput.
He said, “We represent the people, but the people have to help us out and let their voices be heard to those agencies.”