Ground broken on first phase of St. John Parish levee bike path

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2011



LAPLACE – Construction is expected to move forward in the coming weeks on a much-anticipated 2.5-mile paved path atop the Mississippi River levee in LaPlace, according to St. John the Baptist Parish officials, who recently held a groundbreaking for the project.

The path, which is designed for both biking and walking, will extend from the parish line at Lewis Street to the Walnut Street area near Emily C. Watkins Elementary School. Parish officials expect the project to take about three months to complete.

“This project has been in the works for years, and it is underway because of the hard work and collaboration of local and state officials,” Parish President Natalie Robottom said. “This is only the beginning, and we have high hopes that one day the trail will run through the entire parish promoting a healthier lifestyle for our residents.”

The 2.5-mile section is the first phase of what is currently a three-phase trail project through the parish. Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said the second phase, which is still being designed, will stretch 2.84 miles from Walnut Street to Our Lady of Grace Church in Reserve. Braud said that portion is expected to be under construction by October. The proposed third phase would extend the path to Central Avenue in Reserve.

“The levee already gets heavy traffic as it is,” Braud said. “The project will make it a little easier on people and possibly attract more residents.”

Barriere Construction was awarded the roughly $411,000 contract for construction earlier this year. The project is funded through the state Department of Transportation and Development’s Recreational Trails Program, and the parish is only responsible for about $20,000, or 5 percent, of the total cost of construction, Braud said. Phase two is currently budgeted at about $900,000.

The St. John portion will eventually link up with an existing 23-mile levee path in St. Charles Parish that extends downriver from New Sarpy to Audubon Park in New Orleans.

The St. Charles Parish Council on Monday is expected to take up amendments to agreements with the DOTD for financing for two more segments of the path, which will extend it into Norco.

The parish wants to add a 2.2-mile portion from West Harding Street to Apple Street, followed by additional mile-long portion from Apple Street to the lower guide levee of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

The West Harding to Apple phase, which will steer the path down the levee and under two pipe racks near the Valero and Motiva refineries in Norco, is expected to cost about $810,000. The second phase of that path is estimated at about $375,000.

The multi-use trails will eventually be part of a state proposed 110-mile levee path running continuously from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. A consulting group recently completed a feasibility study to get other surrounding parishes involved in the project.