Update: Why Isn’t I-49 Being Routed Around Lafayette? [OPINION]
UPDATE: May 6, 2016 2:30pm
I met with an employee of the DOTD today, and he gave me more information about the I-49 situation.
Before I get into what was shared with me, let me point out that all of the information is public knowledge, having been released in press releases and conferences. None of the information given to me today is "insider" information.
So, the first thing that I learned about today is that the discussion about where I-49 will run is over. It ended several years ago when it was decided that the interstate would run through Lafayette, for the most part, over the Evangeline Thruway. The community advisory committee that currently meets to discuss I-49 is not meeting to discuss the location of the interstate, nor can they discuss making the interstate more like a boulevard, as some had suggested. The interstate must meet interstate regulations, and can not be routed around Lafayette. So, when DOTD employee Toby Picard ( who’s managing the design of an Interstate 49 segment near downtown Lafayette) suggested that some members of the board resign, he was spot-on. The discussions are more about how the interstate will look than anything else.
So, there it is: I-49 WILL run through the heart of Lafayette, along the Evangeline Thruway (for the most part).
The plans call for a mostly elevated freeway, with some underpasses.
So, that's it. I guess I can put the question of "Why isn't I-49 running east of Lafayette" to bed now.
UPDATE: I added a paragraph that includes information from a news story printed in the Daily Iberian, revisiting the Teche Ridge idea)
I was looking through news stories about I-49 through Lafayette, and then I looked at a map, and the question hit me: why can't I-49 be routed around Lafayette?
Have I-49 merge with I-10 (we'd have to expand I-10 an extra lane or two, I suppose), and then break off of I-10 and travel on the east side of the city, near the airport, and hook back up the the Evangeline Thruway between Lafayette and Broussard. Look, I have a diagram I crudely created from Google Maps:
Is it that the Lafayette businesses want all that traffic to come through the heart of the city? Is there (this is PURELY speculation, but it's not far-fetched) someone on the board/commission/DOTD who stands to gain from having the interstate come through Lafayette? Is it that people are so fed up with the current condition of the Evangeline Thruway that they are excited to get it re-paved? Would putting the interstate on the east side of Lafayette be too cost-prohibitive? Would having an exit specifically for the Lafayette Regional Airport (and connectors, of course) not make perfect sense?
In an email, a state transportation official told people who oppose a conventional interstate highway through Lafayette that they should resign from a community advisory committee:
the 5.5-mile highway segment must meet interstate standards and can’t bypass Lafayette. - Toby Picard
In his email, Picard also invited members of the committee who can’t live within those parameters to resign by May 15, so the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development can appoint replacements. (Full story here)
When I posted this story earlier, I linked to it on Facebook, and here are some of the responses to my question:
That last comment included a link to a story in the Daily Iberian about two businessmen bringing up the Teche Ridge option, again. It sounds like a win/win situation to me: saves money, utilizes an abandoned railroad path, avoids making the Evangeline Thruway area of Lafayette any uglier, avoids any environmentally-sensitive areas, and it saves money (what, I already said that??).
Look, I know that my doodling on a map is similar to a 3rd grader's homework, but I think that you can get the gist of the route I am asking about. Why is there no talk about routing the "connector" to the east side of the city? There must be a logical explanation, and I'm all ears.