Says council has contacted state 69 times in 18 years due to safety issues
After a number of requests to the state have failed to elicit much response, Council President Terry Authement wants to initiate a task force to draw attention to the many problems motorists encounter while driving on U.S. 90.
A similar task force was formed in 2004 to investigate Airline Highway, and though the task force didn’t recommend a barrier along the dangerous road, it did make several recommendations that were put in motion a year later. Those recommendations included traffic control and left turn lane improvements.
Authement believes that the increased attention that the task force brought to Airline did eventually lead to a barrier project that should begin in the fall.
“I hope that having a similar task force investigate Highway 90 will lead to the same results,” he said.
Over the last 18 years, Authement said that the Parish Council has contacted the state Department of Transportation and Development 69 times regarding safety issues or major accidents on behalf of the citizens of St. Charles Parish.
These requests have ranged from the placement of “No Left Turn” signs to the construction of a center barrier.
Authement said that the entire stretch of U.S. 90 is hazardous throughout the parish, but that the problems are magnified in Paradis.
“I really think business is suppressed in Paradis because of the safety problems in the area,” Authement said. “Myself and my predecessors have sent numerous requests to improve the area, but we are told that there isn’t enough land to expand the road for a center turn lane or that engineering problems prevent anything from being done.
“I just think sometimes you have to think outside of the box.”
The task force, which would have to be approved by the DOTD, might be able to do just that. With representatives from the Parish Council, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, the state police and the DOTD, Authement feels that there would be enough experience to get some of the problems that plague the highway taken care of.
Of course, community input would be a huge part of the process as well.
“I have some ideas about how to fix some of the problems, but there may be someone out there who has 20 more ideas about how to take care of it,” Authement said. “That’s why community involvement would be so essential. We want to hear from the residents and get their outlook on everything.”
Though initial meetings might concentrate on Paradis, Authement said U.S. 90 is dangerous in other areas as well.
“In the Mimosa area, it’s difficult to even make it across the road due to the steady stream of traffic that we are seeing on the highway now,” he said. “In Luling, it’s hard to turn or U-turn, and if you do, you sometimes have to go across four lanes of the highway.”
Even Boutte, which has a center turn lane, has its fair share of problems because of traffic.
“Just the other day I was leaving a business in Boutte and trying to turn left,” Authement said. “When it was finally clear on both sides, a car got into the turn lane right in front of me and I had to veer around them.
“You have to make some quick decisions when doing something like that.”
While Authement hopes that the task force may be able to “think outside of the box” and find some unique solutions to the Highway 90 problem, he admits that many of the answers may just boil down to money.
“When Wal-Mart moved in, they wanted it to be safe for their customers to enter and exit the store,” Authement said. “They threw a pile of money on the table and now they have lights and turn lanes.
“In some cases, money may solve the problem.”
Authement has sent a copy of his resolution to both Rep. Gary Smith and Sen. Joel Chiasson and has spoken with both about the formation of a U.S. 90 task force over the phone.
“They said to let them know what I needed from them,” Authement said.
If the task force does receive the go-ahead, Authement believes it will make a big difference in the lives of both parish residents and those who travel through the area on their way to other destinations.
“So many things have happened that something has to be done and more people have to be involved,” he said. “If we can save just one more life, it would be worth it.”