Jones: I-49 South plan needs tweaking

PATTERSON, La. -- Parish officials were briefed on a study and tentative proposals regarding the I-49 South extension made by the Department of Transportation and Development Thursday evening at the Patterson Area Civic Center.

While details of the study have not been publicly released, State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said there are several modification and changes he will insist be made because they do not meet the needs of the communities.

Jones said the study calls for an interchange on the interstate at Catherine Street in Patterson.

“The city, the people and the economics” call for that interchange to be at Red Cypress instead, he said.

“We will have it at Red Cypress,” Jones said unequivocally.

Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan said he wants the interstate to be done in the best interests of Patterson.

“DOTD is listening to us on our issues,” Grogan said. He said he expects Jones and Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, will advocate for the city and its interest.

Jones also said he wants a frontage road from Berwick to Bayou Vista on property that is already purchased for the highway. There are wetland preservation issues that will need to be addressed but Jones does not expect that to be an insurmountable obstacle.

As the region has clamored for U.S. 90 to be raised to interstate system standards, the cry has often been that this is a safety issue. Jones said that too many motor vehicle collisions occur in Patterson and that things can be done quickly to alleviate some of that danger. He said that even before an interstate system is completed, he will fight for funding to build J-turns on the highway in Patterson and Berwick.

Berwick Mayor Louis Ratcliff said this morning that the information that he received was “good” and that he has “a good feeling we are moving in a positive direction.”

St. Mary Parish was the last of four parishes that have been briefed on the study, according to Michael Tamperello, point man for the I-49 South Coalition. Jefferson, Lafourche and St. Charles parishes had already been briefed.

The concept of the study has been to try to find the most efficient way to meet the goal of bringing I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans in a way that addressees the circumstances and needs of the communities through which it passes.

“We are very happy with the direction the highway department is going to try to cut costs,” Allain said this morning. “There is no question the plan will need plenty more local input.”

Allain said he wants to be able to discuss these issues with local elected officials and determine the priorities of the communities and then to “speak with one voice” in their conversations with the state.

“I want to work with all the concerns and do what best suits the needs of the parish and the state,” Allain said.

Jones also said that it was important that a final plan have a full interchange in Bayou Vista at Southeast Boulevard.

The plan presented to the group Thursday has an overpass in Berwick at the intersection of South and Thorguson roads, according to Jones. He said the interstate needs to have an interchange there and not an overpass.

Tamperello said the purpose of the meeting Thursday was to hear and respond to any suggestions that local elected officials make to state engineers. He said the highway department will take the input of officials from the four parish meetings that it has held into consideration and bring back an adjusted study for consideration in about a month.

“DOTD has said from the beginning that this study is a recommendation and not an end all,” Tamperello said this morning as he gave a brief outline of the meeting. “This is a first step and not a last step.”

He said that the relationships the commission has developed with the highway department and the study engineers have been positive ones.

“They have heard what we want,” Tamperello said. “Clearly, they are going to work with us.”

Tamperello said that they will discuss more of these issues in detail and publicly when a final study is presented by the highway department.

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