Reserve may land I-10 interchange

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2009


LAPLACE — Various state and local officials laid the very early groundwork for a future interchange off Interstate 10 in St. John Parish during a public hearing on the project in LaPlace Wednesday night.

A small group of residents and engineers listened as representatives for the project discussed the previous alternatives for the interchange, which would cut through wetlands in the Reserve area. Wednesday’s scoping meeting marks the first time the topic of adding an Interstate access point in St. John Parish has been discussed since 2004.

“This is the first of many steps in the process,” said St. John Public Information officer Buddy Boe. “We still have well over a year before we would even know the environmental impact.”

Bruce Richards, a consultant for the project, said the environmental impact statement, which will cost $700,000, could be ready as early as the spring of 2011. He said any and all alternatives for the interchange must past specific guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to ensure that the work does not impact wildlife living in the wetland areas being targeted.

Richards said the project, which has no funding as of yet, could end up costing nearly $67 million when it is finally completed. He is hoping that an additional public meeting could be held as soon as next summer.

Boe said the driving force behind the project is traffic concerns of those residents living in Reserve and Garyville, who must travel into LaPlace or out to St. James Parish to get to an interstate interchange. He said some of the traffic problems will be alleviated by 2009 bond issue-financed improvements to Airline Highway but said an additional interchange in Reserve is necessary to bring more business to the St. John Airport and the Port of South Louisiana.

“This could also be a valuable evacuation route for people living in Reserve who are caught between exits,” Boe said.

Officials at the meeting provided maps that showed previous alternatives for the interchange. One map depicted the extension of West 10th Street to I-10 and another named West 19th Street as a possible alternative. A third map showed a possible extension of West 10th with a curve toward Belle Terre Boulevard.

Previous projects endangered about 69 acres of wetlands. The goal of the new proposals, Richards said, is to lessen or completely avoid wetland impact.

Very few residents voiced concerns over the project. The majority of those speaking up said they would like to see the project fast tracked and completed as soon as possible.

Residents have until August 15 to express written statements or comments about the project. Correspondence may be mailed to St. John the Baptist Airline to I-10 EIS, Attn: Bruce J. Richards, 2750 Lake Villa Drive, Suite 100, Metairie, LA 70002.