I-49 South coalition pushes for interstate completion

State Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, speaks at one of numerous meetings intendend to spur the completion of Interstate 49 from Lafayette to New Orleans. (The Daily Review Photo by Zachary Fitzgerald)

By JEAN L. KAESS jkaess@daily-review.com

The future of I-49 through the parish was kick-started with the formation, at the beginning of 2013, of the I-49 South coalition spearheaded by state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin.
The Interstate 49 South Feasibility and Funding Task Force meets regularly with the state Department of Transportation and Development about their wishes for and concerns about specific plans beginning to trickle about the U.S. 90 corridor between Lafayette and New Orleans.
U.S. 90, running through the length of St. Mary Parish, has had the future I-49 corridor designation for more than a decade.
“People have talked about I-49 for 30 years. It has moved and it has stopped, but mainly, it has stopped,” Allain said.
The nonprofit coalition with a full-time executive director was formed to help move the project forward.
Allain said earlier this year that he expects preliminary roadwork, including J-turns in Patterson, Bayou Vista and Berwick, to be concluded in three or four years.
Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan said DOTD decided to acquiesce to Patterson’s request to have an overpass put in at Red Cypress rather than Catherine Street.
The work to upgrade U.S. 90 to interstate standards has progressed steadily in recent years with a series of projects to build new overpasses, frontage roads and other improvements.
An estimated $5 billion in work remains for the two most expensive portions — the partially elevated stretch through Lafayette and the southern leg from Raceland into the New Orleans area.
Those would be among the largest transportation projects in recent state history, and I-49 supporters have had little success in identifying a funding source at a time when state and federal highway money is tight.
With the completion of the already-funded work at La. 318 in St. Mary Parish, U.S. 90 will be I-49 compliant from Lafayette to the Calumet Cut. Estimates for completion of upgrading the highway to interstate readiness from the Calumet Cut to the Atchafalaya River were last set at $300 million, Allain said.

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