Lafayette resident Ann Burruss sent the following letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg with copies to our Louisiana Governor, Lafayette Mayor, and Louisiana Transportation Secretary. The photos in this letter were taken by Ann earlier this month at the DOTD I-49 Open House poster presentation.
If you feel strongly about the Lafayette I-49 Connector, you too can voice your opinion to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation by sending a letter to: The Honorable Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20590. You may also email the secretary at DOTExecSec@dot.gov.
Louisiana State Project No: H.004273.5
Federal Aid Project No.: H004273
Secretary Buttigieg, November 17, 2021
Congratulations to you and to the Biden administration for passing the infrastructure bill. In my volunteer work for Second Harvest Food Bank in Louisiana, I drive on substandard roads in rural parishes and I know what this bill can mean for struggling workers who commute on bad roads and bridges. Thank you for putting the needs of working people first.
I am writing today to ask that you put an immediate stop to the federal highway project called the I-49 Lafayette Connector in Louisiana. While promoting the infrastructure bill the administration talks about racial justice and equity as driving factors in projects. Extending I-49 through the center of the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, is the exact opposite of that goal. The planned route replaces a surface road with an elevated interstate. It’s like the 1960s and 70s all over again! As if we have learned nothing about the damage -- the permanent dismemberment -- that an interstate highway does to a city. The I-49 Connector is racially unjust. It cements a redline through our city. It divides historically black communities from the prosperous downtown. We know better than we did in the 60s and 70s. We must do better.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and their consultants held a series of sparsely attended open houses here recently. They never ask the public ‘Do you want this interstate? Do you need this interstate? If you need an interstate, where do you want it routed?’ It's always, ‘Do you like this lighting feature or that lighting feature? Do you want your children to be able to bike under this fabulous interstate, or do you want them to play basketball?’ I say “Neither.”
I and many informed citizens want this interstate to Not Be Built Here. Instead, we want to see the LRX (Lafayette Regional Xpressway) built. The LRX will provide the first half of a loop highway around our city. If this western loop portion proves useful and well-traveled, then an eastern portion could be built as an interstate through St. Martin Parish where they are willing and even eager to have a highway there. The LDOT will say that an eastern highway ‘on the Teche Ridge’ can’t be built because of wetland impact - and they are correct that wetlands mustn't be harmed because of their flood storage capacity and natural value. However, the Teche Ridge isn’t the only possible eastern route. Wetlands can be avoided. Please investigate and authorize these routes in lieu of the I-49 connector.
US Census data shows that from 2010 to 2020, the population of the parishes that the I-49 Connector is supposed to serve has dropped by 15%. The cost-benefit study for the I-49 Connector is very suspicious. How could it possibly have shown a positive cost for a highway to a rapidly depopulating area, an area that is losing its economic engine which is oil and gas production from which we must rapidly decarbonize? Accelerating coastal land loss will cause roads and highways south of Lafayette to face the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the elevated route of this highway goes through a contaminated railyard and over our drinking water aquifer.
There is no reason to continue work on running I-49 through our city. Please quickly authorize more affordable and supportable projects to the east or west of the beautiful city of Lafayette, Louisiana, my home. Thank you.
110 Seville Blvd
Lafayette, LA 70503
Governor Edwards, by email
Secretary Wilson, by email
Mayor Guillory, by email
In addition to asking what kind of lights we like, the LDOT renderings add in new buildings along the route, as if prime real estate and good jobs appear right alongside interstates. They don’t. At best you get gas stations and storage unit facilities. Please consider promulgating rules to prevent fanciful projections in renderings. All transportation departments should show only exactly what they propose to build.
Do you want your children to walk, play or bike under an interstate highway? I have never seen these activities happen under interstates anywhere in our country because parents know better. Under an interstate is air pollution, soil pollution, noise pollution and danger from falling objects. Diseases like asthma, chronic stress and depression from sleep disturbance will develop in nearby populations. Please don't visit these traumas on more of our people.
Photographs from posters presented by LDOT and consultants at the November 2021 open house series in Lafayette, Louisiana.