State officials discuss positives, negatives of new I-10 interchange

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010



LAPLACE – State and local officials said Thursday they are examining the environmental impact of nine proposed alternatives for a future Interstate 10 interchange in Reserve.

At a public hearing in LaPlace, representatives from the state Department of Transportation and Development, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Regional Planning Commission discussed the positives and negatives of the new interchange, which would be placed somewhere between the existing Belle Terre Boulevard and Louisiana 641 interchanges. The hearing is part of a $700,000 environmental impact statement on the project.

Thursday’s meeting was a continuation of scoping meetings held in LaPlace and Reserve in August. Those meetings, which helped determine the current alternatives, marked the first discussions of the project since it was first proposed in 2004.

“In 2004, DOTD conducted an environmental assessment of the project, which was then known as the Port of South Louisiana Connector Road,” said Bruce Richards, a consultant for N-Y Associates, the consulting firm conducting the study. “There were a multitude of wetland impact concerns that hindered construction and progression, so additional study was needed. The state recently received new funding, so now the project is back on the table.”

Through a short presentation, Richards reviewed each build alternative and provided initial cost estimates, wetland impact and travel time savings for regular traffic, truck traffic and emergency access. The corps and DOTD also provided maps showing the connector roads for each alternative.

The least expensive alternative is an $80.8 million design that would connect with West 19th Street or Airport Road impacting about 45 acres of wetlands south of the interstate. The alternative with the most time savings, according to the DOTD study, is an $88.3 million design that would connect with West 10th Street or Regala Park Drive and impact about 49 acres of wetlands.

“Both alternatives were part of the original environmental assessment,” Richards said. “The West 10th Street route was the most popular because it essentially lands right in the middle of the existing interchanges.”

The study is also considering three alternatives that connect with streets near the Port of South Louisiana, the St. John Airport and the Marathon Refinery but steer the route back east to hook up with the Belle Terre interchange. Richards said those alternatives would provide minimal time savings, but would offer an additional route for trucks to steer them off Airline Highway.

“Traffic on Airline Highway has been a popular concern of residents at these hearings,” Richards said. “There are not many alternatives when traveling east and west between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.”

Richards said the next step is to narrow the nine alternatives down to two by sometime this summer. He said the group would hold another meeting at that time to gather more input. A final decision on the project would be ready by the summer of 2011.