Improvements planned for I-10 Belle Terre & Highway 51 exits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2021

LAPLACE — Sprucing up the two main entry points into St. John the Baptist Parish should soon be underway, and the work will be much more than applying a fresh coat of makeup.

Upgrades for the Belle Terre and Highway 51 exits off of Interstate 10 include improved lighting, enhanced aesthetics, signage, landscaping, safety and much needed drainage work.

The Parish Council approved a series of resolutions as required by President Hotard during its meeting this past Tuesday night authorizing the parish administration to move forward with the projects. One of the resolutions allows the administration to award project scoping, alternative analysis and conceptual design for the Highway 51/Interstate 10 gateway corridor to GIS Engineering LLC of Baton Rouge.

Planning and Zoning Director Rene Pastorek is hopeful enhancing the corridor will attract visitors, new businesses and increase economic development.

Councilman Robert Arcuri supported the projects but also expressed concern about the drainage on Highway 51 near the I-10 exit, which has become a flood zone during rainstorms.

“It’s something I want (GIS) to look at,” he said. “We must do something because it’s terrible out there. The water is right up to the businesses.”

Councilman Lennix Madere said drainage must be addressed so as not to negatively impact those areas.

Pastorek assured council members drainage will be the first thing GIS evaluates.

One of the resolutions concerned upgrading the lighting along the interstate and the adjacent truck weigh station. Peter Montz, parish director of purchasing and procurement, said he learned the parish is responsible for lights, not only at the weigh station, but also on I-10 and rural and state highways.

He said once the Louisiana Department of Development and Transportation completes a highway project, the parish is responsible for the lighting.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Tammy Houston, Montz said LED lighting will be used because they are more energy efficient.

He added that several of the lights are out.

In other business, the parish is terminating its contract with On-Grade Construction LLC of Donaldsonville. Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said several attempts have been made by parish engineer Joseph Savoie to contact the company, but there has been no response.

Hotard noted that as outlined in the agreement, the parish may terminate for cause based on the company’s failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement.

On-Grade was hired in 2020 for street ditch drainage improvements throughout the parish.

The council authorized the administration to readvertise for bids for the project that includes excavation and culvert replacement on an as-needed basis.

Council members also authorized the administration to advertise for a Request for Qualifications for professional services for the wastewater treatment plan. When completed, the wastewater plants will be consolidated.

Hotard said plans include a new treatment pond on the West Bank of the parish and an expansion to the existing Reserve Water Treatment Pond on the East Bank.

Also during the meeting, Tommy Scott, director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission Office, announced the agency’s office in Laplace at 421 Airline Highway will soon be reopening. The office will be open on Tuesday and Thursdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

The office can be reached at 985-652-3471.