Planners: Bike path receiving support

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Planners and developers of a new paved bike path that would sit atop the east bank Mississippi River levee and eventually stretch from New Orleans to Baton Rouge say the plan has received tremendous support from nearly all the communities involved.

At a recent public hearing in LaPlace, members of the design firm SJB Group spoke of the recreational and connective aspects of the St. John portion of the proposed 110-mile path.

“River Road through St. John has so many scenic and historic aspects to it,” said SJB senior planner Eric Poche. “We have plans for a series of trailhead markers to show significant historic locations where people may want to leave the path and explore further. The tourism possibilities are endless.”

St. John acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe said the parish has funding in place for two phases of the path. He said a 1.5-mile portion, which would connect to an existing portion of the path in St. Charles Parish and stretch to Walnut Street, would be ready for construction next spring.

“The Regional Planning Commission and the Louisiana Recreational Trails Program have contributed grants for construction,” Boe said. “We also secured approval to use about $480,000 from the Department of transportation. Total construction stands at about $990,000.”

Boe said phase two, which would pick up at Walnut Street and continue into Reserve and Garyville, has an estimated price tag of $890,000. He said that portion is still in the design phase.

Poche said the public hearing in LaPlace is part of a $250,000 feasibility study being conducted in the six parishes the path would run through. The study began in August of 2009 and is expected to wrap up by August 2010.

“There has been minimal opposition to the project,” Poche said. “I think most residents and parish leaders understand all of the positives this path could bring.”

Poche said the major concerns have come from the industrial plants along the river that use the levee for river access. He said plant managers have raised questions about safety and security around their facilities.

“We have already designed portions that drop down off the crown of the levee to a level safely away from the plants,” Poche said. “We have also discussed the idea of using the buffer zones around some of these facilities for parking lots.”

Poche said completed portions of the trail in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish experience tremendous walking and bike traffic and he said he sees the same effect happening in St. John and the River Parishes.

“The people want it and we are doing what we can to bring it to them,” he said.