I-49 meeting set in Paradis

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 1, 2005

Public invited to comment on project


Staff Reporter

PARADIS — A St. Charles Parish West Bank town hall meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Aug. 2, to discuss the proposed routes of I-49, and how it will affect the parish.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Paradis.

The I-49 route, set to run from Lafayette to New Orleans and beyond, is believed by many to create driver safety and economic development for the state of Louisiana.

According to the St. Charles Parish Committee for I-49 south, the meeting will discuss the location for I-49 best suited for the continued growth of St. Charles Parish.

Though the project seems to be marked to run along U.S. 90, according to St. Charles Councilman Brian Fabre, one of the sponsors of the meeting, there is an outcry by some citizens’ groups that want the interstate to run through the swampland of the area.

“There is a perfect opportunity to move (the interstate) away from residents and businesses, where they will feel little impact,” Fabre said.

Fabre said the town hall meeting is an avenue to get state officials and engineers to hear the voices of those citizens and of the politicians backing them.

“We don’t want this project making another west bank expressway,” he said.

Supporters are touting I-49 as a way to connect Louisiana to the rest of the nation, by providing more commercial and economic opportunities.

However, Fabre said the original purpose of the project was due to hurricane evacuation problems, and the plan was to create another evacuation route out of New Orleans for the parishes west of the city.

According to the I-49 Regional Task Force, 36 percent of the state’s population lives along I-49, and tying the interstate into the I-310 and West Bank Expressway would greatly assist the evacuations of Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

Fabre said the major issue with the interstate running through the swamp rather than U.S. 90 is the environmental impact it will have on the land and wildlife.

“I find it hard to believe we can do it, but that will not stop us from making the effort,” Fabre said, “We’re trying to get as much clout as possible, to get our voices heard.”

State Representative Gary Smith, Jr. who represents the St. Charles area, said he is not sure he will be able to attend the meeting at this time, but his views are apparently on par with Fabre’s.

“I-49 has been an ongoing process, and we have looked for different options for quite some time,” Smith said.

He added, “It’s great that it can come through here, but running it along Highway 90 is too invasive.”

Smith said those involved have heard opinions on this, and it is not the first meeting to be held on the matter.

“We’ve reiterated it, and reiterated it,” Smith said, “It’s wonderful as long as we can do it in the least disruptive way as possible so it won’t be a detriment to the businesses of the West Bank.”

Fabre said there is no set time for construction to start, as the project is just in the phase of conducting environmental studies right now.