Tragic accidents prompt priorities for state funds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY Managing editor

HAHNVILLE – The tragedy of lost lives took the highest priority by the St. Charles Parish Council Monday in planning their official request for state highway funds.

Eight people died in similar accident during 2003, as vehicles veered off the northern shoulder of U.S. Highway 61 (Airline Drive), between its interchange with Interstate 310 to the east and the intersection with Prospect Avenue to the west.

A candlelight vigil was held Monday at the East Bridge Park, in memory of Rachel Washington, 20, an aide in the before and after-school care program, Samantha, 16, a Destrehan 11th grader; brother Allen Jr., 12, a sixth-grader at Ethel Schoeffner Elementary; and sister Alandra, 10, a fifth-grader at the same elementary school.

The four siblings died Feb. 2, 2003, when the car Rachel was driving from a birthday celebration in Kenner went off the highway for unknown reasons. They were the children of Sandra and Allen Washington Sr. of Destrehan.

A study is under way to review options, spearheaded by Parish President Albert Laque and the state legislative delegation.

“We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what to recommend. We need some help,” Councilman G. “Ram” Ramchandran commented on the situation.

This was the top priority project, added to a list of 17 projects under consideration.

Council member April Black offered a list of seven projects, after she commented several proposals were multi-year in nature and could not be as easily funded.

She suggested in addition to the Airline Drive project, the following priorities in this order:

€ Extend the entrance ramp for eastbound U.S. Highway 90 traffic entering I-310 in Boutte. What is called for is either an extension of the access ramp or completion of the cloverleaf intersection to relieve traffic congestion.

Councilman Barry Minnich reported this intersection was Louisiana’s 11th-worst interchange, with thousands of vehicles clogging up the highway, especially during rush hour.

€ Widen Louisiana Highway 50 (Almedia Road) in St. Rose. Black pushed to have this project bumped higher in the original 17-item priority list. The road has virtually no shoulder and also has deep, narrow ditches on both sides for much of its length.

€ Straighten curve at Louisiana Highway 628 in Montz. Councilman Dickie Duhe affirmed there is no safe way for two school buses to pass one another, and it presents a major safety concern.

€ Construct a center turn lane on Louisiana Highway 48 (River Road) from Ormond Plantation House to I-310. This stretch of state highway is regularly clogged with traffic and is the only alternate to Airline Drive, in case of an accident on that highway.

€ Center turn lanes along U.S. 90 in Paradis and Des Allemands. The plan is to continue the center turn lanes and remove the hazard and potential for accidents.

€ Improvements to Louisiana Highway 3160, between Louisiana Highway 3127 and River Road in Hahnville. This road is heavily traveled, pitted and potholed and in desparate need of overlay, according to Councilman Desmond Hilaire. “It’s like driving in New Orleans,” he said.

Other projects were not dropped, but placed on a secondary list for future consideration. These included the following:

€ Construct a new east-west roadway on the East Bank.

€ Relocation of Louisiana Highway 3060 in Luling, making Barton Avenue a local road instead of a state highway.

€ Straighten the curve at Louisiana Highway 628 in Montz.

€ Reslope the Illinois Central Gulf railroad crossing on CC Road in Montz.

€ Construct a north-south road to connect Norco directly with a new I-10 interchange.

€ Conduct a study of the U.S. 90, Paul Maillard Road intersection.

€ Install street lighting on U.S. 90.

€ Extend the Earhart Expressway to I-310.

€ Add center turn lanes on River Road from I-310 to Sugarhouse Road in Luling.

€ Add a guardrail to protect the cemetery on Old Spanish Trail and Louisiana Highway 631.

€ Improve River Road between Ormond Boulevard to the Jefferson Parish line.

€ Urge accelerated funding of the bridge replacement on Louisiana Highway 632.