Officials look at Ama highway to take pressure off Barton
It is still more than three years away, but the chances appear good for a new highway that would connect Highway 90 and River Road in Ama, according to the Regional Planning Commission.
A feasibility study has already been performed on the project and the cost is estimated to range from $5.8 million to $11.8 million depending on the type of road that is constructed.
Currently, Barton Avenue serves as a major connection between Highway 90 and River Road, but it runs through a residential neighborhood. The road has become heavily congested because of the lack of a signal light at the intersection of Barton and River Road, which forces commuters to wait until multi-directional traffic clears before they can turn.
Two railroad tracks also run through the street.
“Right now, Barton is so congested and it’s causing a lot of problems. Ever since I got into office I have received a ton of complaints about it,” Councilman Shelley Tastet said.
Commute time on Barton can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes at some times of the day, and it creates a hassle for those that live on the street and have trouble even backing out of their driveways.
The commission is looking at five options when it comes to building a new highway, but the preferred option would be a route that would run near the Davis Pond Diversion. Walter Brooks, the executive director of the Regional Planning Commission, said that route would allow an overpass to be constructed over the Burlington National-Santa Fe railroad tracks nearest Highway 90.
“Since two railroad tracks would run through the highway, this would eliminate one of the crossings,” Councilman Terry Authement said. “You would still have to have one regular crossing on the highway.”
A second overpass over the Union Pacific tracks near River Road wouldn’t be feasible because of the crossing’s proximity to the Mississippi River.
The route would begin 1,800 feet to the east of Barton Avenue on Highway 90. Without an overpass, the road is estimated to cost $5.8 million. With the overpass the road would cost around $11.8 million.
There would also be enough room on the new highway to add a recreational path.
J.B. Levert Land Co. owns a majority of the land that such a route would travel through. Jim Hooper, assistant vice president of the company, said the firm is willing to donate the right of way needed for the road’s construction.
He said they plan on developing the property into residential, commercial and some light industrial lots.
Councilman Paul Hogan was concerned that development on a new highway would eventually cause similar problems for motorists that they are experiencing on Barton Avenue.
However, council members said they could add ordinances to prevent that from happening.
“This has been talked about for a number of years. We wanted the public to know that this is an active project to the extent where we are actually doing different alternative routes as well as discussing the cost associated with it,” Authement said.
Because the new road would be a state highway, the parish would not have to foot much of the bill.
Brooks said the parish may be asked for help when it comes to the recreational path or landscaping along the new road.
“This is not a very expensive project,” he said. “The wherewithal to do it will be there.”
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