Local bike paths set to meet in the middle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2011



LAPLACE – Officials in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes said this week that extensions of a paved multi-purpose trail atop the east bank Mississippi River levee will move forward thanks to grants from the state and federal level.

St. Charles Parish spokesperson Renee Simpson said Tuesday that the parish was awarded a $973,800 federal grant that will allow for construction of a 2.9-mile extension of the path from the Bonnet Carre Spillway’s Upper Guide Levee to the St. John Parish line, where it will connect to an existing 3-mile segment in St. John that was completed earlier this year.

Meanwhile, at the St. John Parish Council meeting Tuesday, council members voted to approve execution of an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development for a 2-mile third phase of the path through St. John. The parish was granted $812,700 from the state to assist with construction.

The current path in St. John extends from the St. Charles Parish line to Walnut Street near Emily C. Watkins Elementary School in LaPlace. St. John Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said the parish has taken bids on the 3.5-mile second phase of the path, which will extend it from Walnut Street to East 29th Street. Braud said that project, which should begin by early 2012, is budgeted at about $900,000 and will also be paid for with grants.

The third phase of the project will extend the path from East 29th Street to West 10th Street in Reserve. That project will be bid next year, Braud said.

A handful of residents using that path in LaPlace Thursday say they are looking forward to the additional length.

“I’ve been using it every afternoon after work,” said Dianne Waters of LaPlace. “I used to go out to (Highway 51 Park) by the library. Now I can just walk up the levee.”

Jerome Nathan, who lives on River Road near the school, said he has gradually seen more and more people using the path daily.

“You always see bike riders up there, all the time,” said Nathan, who watches from his porch. “It’s growing in popularity.”

The grant awarded to St. Charles Parish, which comes from the Federal Highway Administration, will help fund phase six of the trail in that parish. Simpson said the announcement comes on the heels of the parish council accepting bids late last month on two other phases of the path through New Sarpy and Norco.

Simpson said the 2.2-mile phase four, which stretches from the end of the existing path at West Harding Street in New Sarpy to Apple Street in Norco and winding around two sets of pipe racks owned by the Valero and Motiva refineries, is budgeted at $907,000. The .88-mile phase 5, from Apple Street to the Spillway’s Lower Guide Levee, has a budget of $380,000. Simpson said Three C’s Properties is the apparent low bidder for the projects, which are both funded by grants.

The grants awarded in both parishes cover about 95 percent of the project’s estimated cost. St. John Parish is responsible for about $43,000, while St. Charles Parish is responsible for $51,200, according to parish officials.

When all of the projects are complete, the east bank multi-use path, as it is known, will stretch more than 38 miles from Audubon Park in New Orleans to Reserve, including a 1.2-mile segment along the Bonnet Carre Spillway bottom road, which is owned by St. Charles Parish.