St. John looks to lock down funding, timeline for improvements to Airline & Main St.

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

LAPLACE — Funding and timeline exacts have not been finalized for an announced multi-million dollar facelift to Airline Highway and Main Street in LaPlace, but local and state leaders do not see it as a roadblock to eventual action.

Despite the lack of a firm start date, the project must be completed by October 2022 in accordance with grant guidelines as outlined through state-led LA SAFE.

Announced last month by Gov. John Bel Edwards, St. John the Baptist Parish was chosen to receive strategic flood adaptation funding focused on a 1.3-mile section of Airline Highway and the .3-mile stretch of Main Street.

Should the improvements receive complete funding, additions to Airline Highway — from Belle Terre Boulevard to Main Street — would incorporate roadside shade trees, native plantings and a green median.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announces LA SAFE funding for numerous parishes, including St. John the Baptist.

Other proposed features include off-street pedestrian and cyclist paths, historic light poles and banners.

Under the proposal, Main Street would receive similar upgrades.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said complete implementation would cost approximately $12.5 million and likely involve three construction phases.

LA SAFE representative Marvin McGraw said St. John is likely to receive $4.5 to $7 million in grant funding, leaving the shortfall to possibly be made up with local funds and money from the state transportation and development department.

Local and state officials have not said when exact figures from LA SAFE funding would be finalized, only telling L’OBSERVATEUR “in the near future.” Local officials could choose to scale back the project’s scope, thereby reducing its cost.

LA SAFE Coastal Resilience Director Liz Williams Russell said the LaPlace project alleviates some of the load on the parish’s drainage system. That should reduce local flooding during rain events.

Beautification efforts double as storm water management, Robottom said, adding it’s important to contain and absorb water close to Airline Highway before it seeps into residential areas.

“If you’re going to live with water, you have to manage it,” Robottom said. “That’s not something we’ve done well historically, but people are starting to realize it’s very important to the future of our parishes.”

Robottom said LA SAFE is not linked to levee construction projects.

Russell said reinvesting in storm drainage management on Main Street and Airline Highway encourages community growth in a controlled environment with a lower flood risk.

St. John Councilman Michael Wright said beautification reinvestments lead to economic growth by attracting developers and businesses looking to relocate to St. John Parish.

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