Millions earmarked for Airline & Main improvements; Parish Council vote near

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

LAPLACE — Parish Council members should have the opportunity to vote by early October on a $12.5 million project designed to reshape portions of Airline Highway and Main Street.

Governor John Bel Edwards recently awarded St. John the Baptist Parish $6.046 million intended to improve storm water management.

That initial funding creates a path to add roadside shade trees, native plantings and a green median to a 1.3-mile section of Airline Highway from the Belle Terre intersection through Main Street.

Similar improvements are planned for Main Street between Airline Highway and West Fifth Street.

While a partial funding for the $12.5 million project has been secured, St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said a start date for construction is contingent on official approval of the St. John Parish Council.

A timeline will come into focus after the Council approves a cooperative endeavor agreement being drafted by the state-led LA Safe resiliency program.

The agreement will likely be presented within the next two Council meetings, Robottom said, noting the current lack of a firm start date is not going to hinder the project from reaching completion by October 2022, as mandated by state guidelines.

The Parish Council’s next two scheduled meetings are Sept. 25 and Oct. 9.

“Once we get a final agreement with LA Safe within the next two Parish Council meetings, we’ll be able to move forward with securing a firm and final design to bring the project to fruition,” Robottom said.

LA Safe representative Matt Sanders expects construction to begin in 2019 and end ahead of schedule.

By investing in storm water management and beautification efforts, the goal is to drive community development into a controlled area of LaPlace, relatively safe from flood risk, according to Sanders.

A green median and roadside trees will absorb water along Airline Highway, Sanders said.

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

Robottom said Parish leaders are continuing to work with transportation entities and Regional Planning Commission partners to secure additional funding.

“There are no plans to scale it back,” Robottom said. “It’s a comprehensive project. We need to complete it in its entirety and not stop in the middle. We plan to do it in phases so we can leverage these grant dollars with some other dollars.”

Robottom said LA SAFE is not linked to the West Shore Levee project, which will undergo construction concurrently with Airline and Main Street improvements.

The project was designed to be scalable to fit tighter budgets, according to Sanders.

“Some components, including redevelopment of the Airline Highway neutral ground, will require additional funding sources,” Sanders said. “The State and Parish will actively explore funding opportunities to expand the project to its maximum benefit.”

Robottom said an additional $1 million has been secured from the Department of Transportation in exchange for St. John the Baptist Parish taking over a portion of a state road in Pleasure Bend.

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