Change would ease growing traffic backup
Despite it taking a year to determine the status of the proposed I-310 flyover ramp to address the area’s mounting backup traffic on U.S. Highway 90, the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC) is seeking approval for an alternative that could save years, cost and possibly lives.
RPC Deputy Director Jeff Roesel said the best alternative is to avoid the fly-over ramp and extensive, lengthy bureaucracy required to alter the interstate.
Instead, the agency has gotten preliminary approval from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to realign Highway 90. Roesel said the plan currently calls for pushing the westbound U.S. 90 lane to the north to go under the existing ramp and tie back to the west of I-310.
The plan resulted from a significant amount of discussion between the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, as well as the Federal Highway Administration and St. Charles Parish government, Roesel said.
Focusing on a Highway 90 realignment would reduce project cost from an estimated $22.8 million I-310 ramp to an estimated $12 million for the Highway 90 realignment, he said. It would also take years off the project timetable by avoiding or reducing the lengthy process with the environmental impact assessment.
“We’d consider this a win-win for everybody,” Roesel said. “The DOTD people in road design really like the option, some officials have given it tentative endorsement. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
A public meeting, rather than a hearing, could be held on the proposed project this year although it is still being determined if taking this direction would even require a meeting, he said.
Design could be done by fiscal year 2019 with construction underway by the year 2021.
The work would stay almost entirely within existing right-of-ways, Roesel said. An additional sliver, or nearly 10 feet of right-of-way, would be needed that could result in removing people and property.
“We definitely don’t feel there’d be property relocations,” he said.
In August of last year, the RPC, which initiates the process that puts the project in motion with the DOTD and Federal Highway Administration, advertised a meeting and then postponed it to assess the impact of the I-49 corridor.
Councilman Paul Hogan, who has pressed for the project since 2008, had maintained removing the traffic light on Highway 90 would eliminate traffic backup. Hogan also expressed concern that the proposed I-310 ramp posed more delays and additional cost because it extended beyond the state right-of-way and would incur greater cost from the impact on businesses, property owners and wetlands.