Rep. Jones updates city on drainage, flooding and I-49

State Rep. Sam Jones (D-Franklin) gave a legislative session update to the Franklin City Council Tuesday.

He told the council that after he suggested the city apply to the statewide flood control program, it did and the city has been preapproved.

“For Pecan Acres drainage, for the program you put together…go for all of the $3.3 million,” Jones said. “Tie it into the project the levee board is about to take bids on and start construction on in December, the swing barge gate (on the Franklin Canal.)”

Jones said that would be the “final piece of the puzzle to get the additional drainage, for the pumping power that you need.”

He suggested leaving the Pecan Acres pumps in place but pipe the water beyond the control structure.

“We’re funded through the Community Development Block Grant for pumping power on the east side of Willow Street,” Jones said. “Covers back up to the railroad track. This (additional protection) would probably serve Pecan Acres for another 50 to 100 years.”

Resurfacing of La. 87, at $2.5 million, is continuing. Jones said, between Franklin and Centerville. “The goal is to have it finished for grinding,” he said. “I did want to put into the record that resurfacing La. 317 from U.S. 90 to Burns Point, that bids going to be taken for that $7 million project will be let in November. The parish council has asked for a station to put a truck out there, and that’s been approved.”

The Oaklawn bridge over Bayou Teche will be bid out soon as well.

Jones said the Community Water Enhancement Fund has been refunded by the legislature, and the city can apply for up to $50,000 from that.

“We’re going to be setting the road priority list later this year,” he said. “I did notice that Northwest Boulevard, on the two-lane part, is looking kind of raggedy. If you have any priorities send them to me in a letter.”

Jones said the bidding and construction of an overpass at La. 318 has been slightly delayed after some redesign and need for more property acquisition.

The project is funded at $33 million, Jones said, and he expects the last snags to be resolved soon.

Jones said I-49 has “become a cause for me. I think a lot of what we hear about development of St. Mary Parish…. has a lot to do with the roads people travel on to do commerce. If you have two-bit roads, people are going to avoid them. This is going to have us with first-class, I-49 grade status, Lafayette to Calumet.”

Red Cypress Road in Patterson, Southeast Boulevard in Bayou Vista, and Berwick are all slated to have overpass construction in the future.

He said I-49 opens “the Charenton Canal to further development, and also the Wax Lake Outlet.”

Jones said he is committed to seeing the I-49 corridor completed.

Brett Allain, a member of the I-49 Task Force Committee, told the council that “the problem is the politics of I-49 got bogged down in the Lafayette area. They want what they want, they want an elevated highway, they’re going to hold it up as long as they can. Until we get the task force refocused on this area, I don’t think we’ll ever see it. A billion dollars to do an elevated highway over Lafayette? You could go around it for $300 million. Those are the kind of numbers we are talking about.”

Allain said the “biggest beneficiary of I-49 being concluded is this district through here” including St. Mary Parish.

Jones noted that by voter approval, parishes starting in 2013 will receive more money from oil and gas revenues on state-owned land. By 2014 or so, St. Mary should net about $2 million. “I don’t think it’s too early for city councils to begin engaging the parish council on the best use, and certainly the sharing, of those funds.”

There was also $10 million in that amendment for the Atchafalaya River development, Jones said. It would provide access and other features for the basin as a recreational and National Heritage Area.

The property would be obtained from willing sellers to create more access to the basin, Jones said.

“We’ve been talking about this since the eighties,” Jones said. “We had no opposition to the bill. Franklin may not be on the basin itself, but you’re part of the development.”

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