Levee bike path to link seven parishes

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 2, 2009


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – St. John Council members allowed parish officials to move forward on an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development  that paves the way for a new bike trail along the Mississippi River Levee in LaPlace.

The arrangement, which was approved at the council’s finance committee meeting Thursday, allows the parish to use $480,000 of DOTD funds to help construct a 1.5-mile asphalt path. The path will run from the St. Charles Parish line near Lewis Street to an area near Walnut Street on the East Bank of St. John. The project has a price tag of about $840,500.

In addition to the funds approved Thursday, St. John public information officer Buddy Boe said the parish is set to receive $184,690 from the Regional Planning Commission and $83,500 from the Louisiana Recreational Trails Program. He said the parish will pick up the tab on the remaining $92,311, which will come out of the parish’s public works budget.

Boe said the design phase, which will cost roughly $84,000, is already underway. He said Meyers Engineers have been contracted to do the work.

The path will connect with an existing asphalt path in St. Charles parish that runs the length of the river into Jefferson Parish. Plans had been in the works for a 110-mile path from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but federal funding for the project is still pending and no movement has been made on the project since last year. Pontchartrain Levee District officials said they are waiting on a $125,000 grant from the US Army Corps of Engineers for a feasibility study.

Boe said the parish has been looking at the possibility of a bike path atop the levee since 2006 as part of a DOTD transportation enhancement project. He said the path would eventually become part of a statewide “Ring Around the Lake,” a 150-mile bike trail project that will link the seven parishes surrounding Lake Pontchartrain.

“Phase one is the Mississippi levee path,” said Boe. “The second phase would create a ramp that slopes down off the levee near Walnut Street, where it would connect with Highway 51 and eventually run to the lake. We have already made requests with the engineers for designing the second phase of the project.”

Boe said the path is a recreational opportunity that will allow St. John residents to reconnect with the river and showcase the main driving force behind the parish’s economy.

“A vast majority of us live along the river but are separated from it by the levee,” said Boe. “The river is the reason why most of us survive here.”

Before the vote , council members asked the administration to consider the possibility of a similar path atop the West Bank Levee. St. John Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy said the parish is open to working on something for the West Bank and said they are considering seeking out grants for a project.