Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Public comment from 16 years ago documents our citizens' struggle against the I-49 Con

Click on letter to enlarge.
The following comment by Kelly Roberts Caldwell dated April 30, 2001 was included in the FEIS, Volume II, page 299.  

Today, citizens continue to "battle a proposal that is, on its face, senseless." Now the senseless plan is called the I-49 Con.  

Secretary Kam Movassaghi
Department of Transportation & Development
P.O. Box 94245
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Dear Sir:

The citizens of Lafayette fully support the extension of I-49 South. We strongly support a
Lafayette eastern bypass and are deeply opposed to an elevated interstate thru the heart of
our city. In July, 1992, a public meeting was held after an EIS was distributed of the Evangeline
Thruway corridor plan. Citizens voiced overwhelming opposition resulting in its withdrawal. In
1997, the project was restarted by DOTD at the urging of the chamber of Commerce leadership
who have relentlessly pursued the Evangeline Thruway placement. New strategy! Lead the
public to believe that other alternatives are being considered. Many reasonably assumed that the
1992 official public rejection eliminated Evangeline Thruway. Wrong! Residents realized very
late thai the "alternatives" were all simply "variations" of the previously rejected Thruway plan.

I am a spokesperson for a campaign by The Sierra Club, Citizens Speak Out, Sterling Grove
Historic Association, Tree Society of Acadiana, Annabelle Subdivision Association, and others
joined to promote an I-49 eastern bypass. Our petition has over 1000 signatures with more added
each day. Lafayette citizens arc now at risk from the 50,000 vehicles per day on Evangeline
Thruway, many hauling hazardous materials. Why plan to increase the risk with 100,000 daily
estimated for completed I-49? Proponents insist an eastern bypass was studied and rejected.
Rejected by whom? Where are the studies? Why choose this destruction and danger to our
community? ls it simply a price the local power structure is willing to pay to keep the project all
within Lafayette Parish - avoid sharing with our neighbor, St. Martin?

We are told a Lafayette eastern bypass would impact wetlands (though their plan requires moving
a runway at our airport into wetlands). Harold Schoeffler, a well known businessman and
environmentalist and Pierce Meleton, respected architect, and others actually mapped out a route
to the east between Breaux Bridge and Lafayette into St. Martin. It runs beyond Cypress Island
Swamp but west of the beautiful Teche thru sugar cane fields and pasture land coming back into
90 below Broussard. Destroys no homes or businesses. Gives St. Martin needed interstate
access and avoids the adverse impacts in Lafayette. Be vastly superior for evacuation- with two
highways out rather than the one sure to become an elevated trap in Lafayette. When taken to
highway engineers cost estimates were about half that of cutting thru lafayette. Likely you were
sent the St. Martin resolution asking that the Teche Ridge alternative be considered.

Citizens must battle to save themselves from a proposal that is, on its face, senseless? Impacts
to the human and natural environment so enormous that governments' talk of "mitigation" is a
joke in the community. An elevated federal interstate alongside a national historic district?
Elderly, poor and minorities disproportionately impacted? Their sector of the city walled of!?
Please do what you can.

Kelly Roberts Caldwell

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, but Mrs. Caldwell's letter is as much a half-truth then as it is now.

    The problem is that the Teche Ridge Bypass would not and cannot avoid crossing some portion of Cypress Swamp, especially to the west of Breaux Bridge; and that the portions that would pass to the east of Cypress Swamp would impact some homes. Not to mention, those cane fields actually do provide economic growth to St. Martin Parish.

    Mrs. Caldwell's assertion of cost savings from Teche Ridge versus the Connector freeway are also overestimated. In 2002, LADOTD did an analysis of the Baker study of Teche Ridge, and found that the actual cost for construction of that alternative was (in 2002 USD) approximately $601 million, which was more than the $400 million that was asserted by her group back then. At that time, $601 million was approximately the cost of combining the original cost of constructing the Connector freeway as approved in the 2003 ROD and the segment immediately south of it (from the airport to LA 88). Given inflation and the increased development, it's clear that the costs for building Teche Ridge have increased in relative terms.

    Every other claim in Mrs. Caldwell's letter about the impact of the Connector freeway is as overblown now as it was then. No portion of Sterling Grove is even touched by the project ROW, other than a direct visual impact for the St. Genevieve Catholic Church/School vicinity, which is actually lessened and more easily mitigated by the proposed refinements of the current study alternatives. The displacements of houses and businesses along the current Evangeline Thruway can be easily handled through moving houses to the proximate neighborhoods bordering the ROW. And, there are protocols and procedures already in place to protect the Chicot Aquifer and clean up the old Southern Pacific rail yard site.

    Again, some actual truth rather than reaching for past emotions would be more than helpful.