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Author Topic: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)  (Read 51206 times)

Anthony_JK

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Considering that the proposed I-49 Lafayette Connector Freeway project is the last remaining vital segment of the I-49 South extension to New Orleans, and that its continuing development will be the overwhelming and definitive focus for discussion for the next 5 years, I thought that it would be a decent idea to spin off development of this project and those affecting I-49 South into this thread. This will allow for more detailed discussion of the continuing design and environmental reevaluation process without gumming up the original "I-49 in LA" thread. Of course, the original posts in that thread concerning the Connector freeway should remain for both background and posterity.


Anyways, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser just ran an article today by Claire Taylor that pretty much encapsulated the entire history and controversy over the Connector freeway, and does a pretty good job of detailing all of the issues and arguments, pro and con. Because the article is so detailed, it wouldn't give it justice to merely snip portions from it; so I'll just offer you the link:


http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/11/27/interstate-49-lafayette-connector-how-we-got-here/76261204/


The article also includes a series of layouts of the entire length of the Connector freeway, from the Kaliste Saloom Road interchange all the way to the I-10/I-49 interchange, including the area near downtown that has drawn the most controversy.


Some pics of the layouts can follow, if the mods here don't object.




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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2015, 10:09:01 AM »

Welp...it looks like we are about to get Round 2 of the I-49 Connector Freeway War.


The Lafayette Daily Advertiser just posted an article about a meeting that was held by historic opponents of the Lafayette Connector freeway, hosted by the Lafayette Chapter of the Sierra Club. It attracted such a huge crowd that it had to be moved to the library gym.


It remains apparent that there is still some deep and strong resentment and opposition to not only the elevated freeway concept, but to the very idea of I-49 being routed through Lafayette to begin with....and while the Teche Ridge alternative bypass wasn't mentioned, there was a strong hint that opponents would probably attempt to force a reconsideration of that alternative, even via new legal action.


Nearly all of the presenters were those who opposed the original concept of the I-49 Connector during the 2000's, and who were active in the unsuccessful lawsuit attempting to block consideration in 2004.


For the record, here's a link to that article:


http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/12/03/grassroots-effort-questions--49-and-its-impact/76693402/


Buckle up, folks...the ride just got a bit more bumpy.

ADDENDUM: A similar article from the Acadiana Advocate of the Y-49/Sierra Club meeting:


http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/14182027-123/lafayette-resident-lob-harsh-criticism




« Last Edit: December 04, 2015, 10:51:49 AM by Anthony_JK »
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2015, 05:16:30 PM »

Does anyone think this Connector will be constructed? Or will they have to consider an alternative alignment, like say, an eastern bypass to Interstate 10? Or maybe not construct it at all?
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2015, 06:57:49 PM »

My position is that the Connector is still the best way to complete I-49 South, and ultimately will be constructed whenever the funding is secured. They are too far in upgrading the rest of US 90 south of Lafayette to simply halt consideration of this project, and any further delays and obstructions by the Connector opponents would set back the development of I-49 for another 20 years, at least.


I really don't see any issues that have not been addressed and mitigated by the current process; all of the opposition I'm seeing is from the usual NIMBYs and the same folk who opposed the Connector project from the very beginning..with the new addition of the "new urbanist" faction who always says that elevated freeways suck and mixed use boulevards are the solution to all urban issues.


Unless they discover any new killer constraints, I don't think that they will be successful; and ultimately I-49 gets built along the Connector alignment as it should be. But, you never know about these things, so we'll see.
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jbnv

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2015, 05:30:41 PM »

It's Lafayette politics at work. How dare they lay new concrete through the city. We'll whine, complain, sue, whatever it takes to keep it from happening. Maybe have a major land developer build a big thing right in its way so that only a 35-mph boulevard gets built instead of a freeway. Of course, the people who are complaining have no viable solution, but seem to enjoy watching as Lafayette's traffic problems get worse.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2015, 08:48:01 PM »

It's Lafayette politics at work. How dare they lay new concrete through the city. We'll whine, complain, sue, whatever it takes to keep it from happening. Maybe have a major land developer build a big thing right in its way so that only a 35-mph boulevard gets built instead of a freeway. Of course, the people who are complaining have no viable solution, but seem to enjoy watching as Lafayette's traffic problems get worse.

The most ironic thing about it is that the segment of the Evangeline Thruway between Simcoe Street and Taft Street that's not covered by the proposed Connector freeway could be a perfect site for the very "urban boulevard" theme that "New Urbanists" would covet.  Witness this pic of that segment:



That section could easily be converted into a "boulevard" by shifting the southbound roadway east and narrowing the one block seperation into a median. That would even create a better buffer zone protecting the McCovey-Veazey neighborhood from the freeway, and allow for some creative joint use development.

In fact, the only segment of the proposed Connector freeway that would create the most displacements would be the area within the Evangeline Thruway median between the L&DRR railroad spur and Simcoe Street, and the area from there to Jefferson Street. An elevated highway is the only option in order to cross the railroad and keep Mudd Ave and Simcoe Street open as cross connections. Yet, they say this is "divisive"??? Like, the heavy traffic using the Thruway isn't divisive enough? Or, the at-grade crossings of the BNSF/UP railroad that would be replaced with grade separations at Second/Third Sts. and Johnston Street aren't divisive in their own right??

Also...the old SP railyard has been noted as a hazardous waste site for years long before the Connector freeway was even born as an idea. It will be cleaned up as part of the construction of the freeway. It will NOT be cleaned up, however, under any other alternative. So, what's the real problem with using construction of the Connector to finally clean up that site? Or, is it simply another NIMBY excuse being thrown out by opponents who simply want to obstruct and delay even more to stop I-49 South or divert it to St. Martin Parish via Teche Ridge??



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jbnv

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2015, 09:55:30 PM »

As I've noted elsewhere, Lafayette is ALREADY a "divided" city, with that division occuring largely among University Ave. I don't see anything in that design that creates division that isn't already there. And this area would benefit from bulldozing what is there and putting in the connector and new development. Even a linear park among Evangeline Thruway would be better than what is there now.

These "environmentalists" like throwing their weight around more than anything else. Make a fuss, get some press, go to court, and make the entire state conform to their whims.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2015, 02:08:13 PM »

This article explores the interesting question of what are good examples of communities getting it "right" with elevated freeways going through their respective communities; two initial suggested examples are the Westbank Expressway near New Orleans and the U.S. 90 bridge in Berwick, LA:

Quote
At a meeting Dec. 3 about the Interstate 49 Connector project, resident Greg Davis asked a question on a lot of minds: Who got it right?
Davis was asking for examples of where highway officials built an elevated freeway through a city that didn't divide the community and create an eyesore underneath.
In response, Shawn Wilson, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, cited work done under and around the Westbank Expressway near New Orleans. A transit hub was created there, he said, along with a pedestrian and bike path and gardens.

I haven't had time to drive there and see the example for myself yet. But if I do,I'll take photos to share with you.
Rusty Cloutier of Mid-South Bank, a long-time proponent of finishing I-49 from Lafayette to New Orleans, suggested I visit the St. Mary Parish community of Berwick to see what they did under the four-lane U.S. 90 bridge.
Since my mother lives across the river in Morgan City, I stopped in Berwick last weekend. They created a nice little park with playground equipment and benches and greenery. It's a very small area that sits next to the Berwick city hall with homes on the other side. The th-thump, th-thump, th-thump of vehicles traveling overhead was loud and I was the only one there Sunday afternoon, despite the good weather.
I don't know how high the overpass is in Berwick, but the I-49 Connector is supposed to be no more than 22 feet high, dipping to ground level in several places, and it will be six lanes wide, not four like in Berwick.
Residents in Lafayette are concerned that the Connector will further divide the neighborhoods around the Evangeline Thruway and create a blighted, dead area for drug dealers and the homeless. Local, state and federal officials say that with proper planning and community input, it doesn't have to be that way.
Berwick is a lot smaller community than Lafayette and the bridge is smaller and shorter than the 5.5-mile I-49 Connector will be in Lafayette.

Several photos of the area under the Berwick bridge accompany the article and here is a snip of one of them:

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longhorn

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2015, 03:12:32 PM »

This article explores the interesting question of what are good examples of communities getting it "right" with elevated freeways going through their respective communities; two initial suggested examples are the Westbank Expressway near New Orleans and the U.S. 90 bridge in Berwick, LA:

Quote
At a meeting Dec. 3 about the Interstate 49 Connector project, resident Greg Davis asked a question on a lot of minds: Who got it right?
Davis was asking for examples of where highway officials built an elevated freeway through a city that didn't divide the community and create an eyesore underneath.
In response, Shawn Wilson, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, cited work done under and around the Westbank Expressway near New Orleans. A transit hub was created there, he said, along with a pedestrian and bike path and gardens.

I haven't had time to drive there and see the example for myself yet. But if I do,I'll take photos to share with you.
Rusty Cloutier of Mid-South Bank, a long-time proponent of finishing I-49 from Lafayette to New Orleans, suggested I visit the St. Mary Parish community of Berwick to see what they did under the four-lane U.S. 90 bridge.
Since my mother lives across the river in Morgan City, I stopped in Berwick last weekend. They created a nice little park with playground equipment and benches and greenery. It's a very small area that sits next to the Berwick city hall with homes on the other side. The th-thump, th-thump, th-thump of vehicles traveling overhead was loud and I was the only one there Sunday afternoon, despite the good weather.
I don't know how high the overpass is in Berwick, but the I-49 Connector is supposed to be no more than 22 feet high, dipping to ground level in several places, and it will be six lanes wide, not four like in Berwick.
Residents in Lafayette are concerned that the Connector will further divide the neighborhoods around the Evangeline Thruway and create a blighted, dead area for drug dealers and the homeless. Local, state and federal officials say that with proper planning and community input, it doesn't have to be that way.
Berwick is a lot smaller community than Lafayette and the bridge is smaller and shorter than the 5.5-mile I-49 Connector will be in Lafayette.

Several photos of the area under the Berwick bridge accompany the article and here is a snip of one of them:



Why does it matter? Is 49 going to be elevated through the city? I thought it was supposed to be trenched.
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jbnv

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2015, 03:14:41 PM »

Why does it matter? Is 49 going to be elevated through the city? I thought it was supposed to be trenched.

Where did you get the idea that it would be trenched? Some have floated the idea of trenching it, but for the most part it's impractical.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2015, 06:11:18 PM »

From what I see of the Berwick treatment under the bridge, this looks like a typical section of elevated highway that has been developed for the approach to the Atchafalaya River Bridge.

Probably a more appropriate comparison would be the area around the Claiborne Elevated in New Orleans, which is more continuous and mostly elevated to the height of where the Connector would be (though the Connector would be a bit higher, since the commitments to mitigating Sterling Grove District call for a 25-foot elevation from the LDRR spur at least to the Second/Third interchange, where the design would then drop to near grade level at Johnston Street. (The latter would be depressed to pass underneath the Connector and the BNSF railroad at that interchange.)

I would think that the current study would definitely look at ways to effectively reduce the noise level underneath the elevated structure, as well as adding significant joint use/greenscape/mixed use opportunities within and underneath the ROW. There is also a plan to widen the existing median space between the elevated mainline structures in the core downtown area to 30 feet, to allow for even more light and air spacing for mixed use....although that would require a little more ROW to acquire.

Either way, the fact that the LADOTD brass responded such to Mr. Davis' question shows that they are aware of the criticism of not treating elevated highways, and are not going to let the opportunities pass for major improvements.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2015, 06:27:38 PM »

Why does it matter? Is 49 going to be elevated through the city? I thought it was supposed to be trenched.

Where did you get the idea that it would be trenched? Some have floated the idea of trenching it, but for the most part it's impractical.

After the initial EIS was trashed in 1992, the earlier Lafayette MPO had issued a report called "North-South Corridor Study: Path to Progress" that analyzed both the Evangeline Thruway and three outer bypass corridors (one to the west and two to the east). As part of their findings, they also proposed a "cut and cover" design for the Evangeline Thruway corridor where the highway would be depressed from approximately the LDRR spur to Johnston Street, and fully capped from Mudd Avenue to Jefferson Street. Here is a layout of that proposed design, from the N/S Corridor Study final report:



Ultimately, FHWA and DOTD looked at it and rejected it due to very questionable feasibility, excessive vertical gradients, and extreme impacts during construction. Keeping the Evangeline Thruway open as a hurricane evacuation route during constructing the trench, and the direct impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, essentially killed any though of depressing the Connector.

Also...that proposal used the "EA-1" alignment, which followed the Thruway for its entirity. The ultimate proposed alignment approved in the 2013 ROD and now featured in this current design study broke from the Thruway around Mudd Ave to approach the BNSF/UP railroad, before recurving to rejoin the Thruway alignment around 14th Street. This was done to both shift the alignment away from Sterling Grove District and to remove any impact on the McComb-Veazey neighborhood, which borders the Thruway from Simcoe Street to Pinhook Road.


A caveat: "2012 Plan" refers to the scenario of the cut-and-cover segment being completed by 2012. The actual report was issued in 1993.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2015, 06:30:26 PM by Anthony_JK »
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2015, 09:36:55 PM »

Perhaps they should reevaluate a cut-and-cover tunnel along the proposed Connector alignment as opposed to the Thruway alignment.  A cursory look at imagery and topography suggests that they should be able to build such with minimal impact on the northbound Thruway (most important side for hurricane evacuation).
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jbnv

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2015, 09:43:37 PM »

Call it "The Big Dig of the South."

If they could pull it off and keep it from flooding, it could be a new marvel of engineering. It will be expensive (though necessarily more than the elevated freeway?), and if it fails, it could be a disaster for the city.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2015, 10:09:05 PM »

Perhaps they should reevaluate a cut-and-cover tunnel along the proposed Connector alignment as opposed to the Thruway alignment.  A cursory look at imagery and topography suggests that they should be able to build such with minimal impact on the northbound Thruway (most important side for hurricane evacuation).

Not feasible IMHO, Froggie, for the following reasons:

1) You'd still have to take out the SB Evangeline Thruway roadway, Mudd Avenue, Simcoe Street, and a lot of the Jefferson Boulevard cross section, in order to build both the trench and the cap. Way too destructive during construction, and potentially prohibitory for the neighborhood immediately west of the Thruway.

2) The plans for the existing Evangeline Thruway with the proposed Connector project is to reduce their laneage from 3 lanes to 2 lanes in each direction and incorporate "Complete Streets" design to include pedestrian and possible bicycle access. The direct interchanges with Second/Third and Johnston would support that option, since it would remove the bulk of the heaviest traffic away from the Thruway while providing improved access to these main arterials. (In addition, it is assumed that the Connector freeway would take on the bulk of any hurricane evacuation traffic. Going to a depressed or capped freeway would take away those opportunities, since the Evangeline Thruway would probably still be used for direct access to the main arterials. Also, more traffic would mean more of a noise impact, especially to Sterling Grove District.

3) The current alignment between Jefferson Street and Taft goes through property that once had the old Southern Pacific railroad yard and roundhouse, which has been known as a potential hazardous waste site. One of the main concerns of opponents of the current plan is that the pilings required for construction could penetrate into the clay sands where Lafayette's drinking water are stored (the Chicot Aquifier). It's also the reason why the current alignment between Jefferson and Johnston is now at grade on fill rather than elevated. I'm pretty sure that a depressed or capped alignment would present an even worse threat of a breach unless the site was thoroughly cleaned up.

4) There is a coulee ditch that runs across the Evangeline Thruway just north of and parallel to the L&DRR spur crossing between Willow and Mudd that essentially eliminates a depressed freeway south of Willow. If you retained the elevated highway from Willow to just south of the L&DRR, you would create an excessive gradient between there and Mudd Avenue in order to transition to a depressed or C&C section. (The same would be true as well between Johnston and Fourteenth/Taft Sts. where the freeway alignment rejoins the Thruway ROW, since an elevated freeway is required to allow the SB Thruway roadway to pass underneath, and to overcross Pinhook Road.)

5) A trench/cap would all but wipe out the Jefferson Blvd underpass of the BNSF/UP railroad, and eliminate the possibility of grade separating the Second/Third couplet and Johnston St. rail crossings.

6) If you notice, the original C&C proposal contained a partial interchange with the Thruway accessing Mudd Avenue that was proposed to be the main access from the mainlines to downtown to/from the north. Partial interchanges like that are now not considered kosher by the FHWA, who recently revised their standards for interchanges and access in urban and rural areas. Of course, you could eliminate those ramps and use Willow Street and Johnston Street (or even Willow Street and the Surrey Street/E. University Avenue interchanges) for accessing the core area by using the existing Thruway lanes as virtual C-D roads...but that would still mess with the CSS plans and "Complete Streets" proposals.

tl;dr....much more disruptive and more costly with no real benefits as compared to the current proposal.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2015, 10:39:32 PM »

Call it "The Big Dig of the South."

If they could pull it off and keep it from flooding, it could be a new marvel of engineering. It will be expensive (though necessarily more than the elevated freeway?), and if it fails, it could be a disaster for the city.

See my response to Froggie above...and also, I don't think LADOTD wants the risk of having their main hurricane evac route for South Louisiana become an artificial lake in advance of a Cat 3+ hurricane bearing down on the region. Even Teche Ridge or the LRX would be a better alternative than that.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2015, 10:45:59 PM »

Dig it underground.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2015, 11:00:05 PM »

Dig it underground.

This is South Louisiana, not Boston. Too close to the coast, and too expensive.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2015, 11:21:37 PM »

See my response to Froggie above...

I'm well aware that it's not going to happen.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2015, 10:09:54 AM »

Call me crazy...or anything you want, just don't call me late for supper...but why not teach Lafayette an expensive lesson:

Start somewhere just east of Crowley and start building new interstate highway southeastward, completely bypassing Lafayette, to connect with the upgraded US 90. Welcome interstate 6!

Let several years go by with the bypassing of potential business eat into the minds of those who wished the elevated highway not be built. Allow Lafayette to continue to divide itself without the existence of an elevated highway. Let them suffer & "waller in the squaller" of horrible traffic jams created by everyone wanting to go south from the end of I-49 to the new I-6 to go to NOLA. That seems to be what they want...let 'em have it!

Then maybe...after these current NIMBYs have died and younger folks of the future see how the lack of an elevated freeway has hurt Lafayette more than helped it...they will get off their assets and get that highway built.

I don't wanna hear about how it is wrong to have a whole interstate in just 1 state...I-2, -4, & -12 have set the precedents.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2015, 10:15:12 AM »

Seems unlikely to happen unless you nuke Lafayette. From the get go, I would route it and teach Lafayette a lesson by routing it through the side that wants the highway, and the NIMBYs all burn and learn their lesson.
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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #21 on: December 13, 2015, 05:33:46 PM »

You have to understand Lafayette politics. For quite a few decades, Lafayette has beena  big city with a very small-town mentality. Too many movers and shakers in the city want it to be a small town forever. Hence the I-49 connector. Hence the Camellia Blvd. debacle. Hence Lafayette not having an interstate loop or spur while several smaller cities have one. Hence Lafayette having no freeways in the city and only one major thoroughfare with three lanes in one direction.

Don't count on younger residents being more progressive. See the case of one Connor McManus, who is 24 years old, claims that he grew up in Lafayette, and yet barfs out the same nonsense that the older NIMBYs have given for years. Given how far to the left our education culture has drifted, I think we will see more children of Lafayette come back from college with this attitude.

At best, they'll build the connector over the next decade and then spend another decade or two talking about having a loop around the city. The environmentalists will try to kill the loop, claiming that they don't need it because we have the Connector.

Meanwhile, tiny bedroom communities in Texas will have far better infrastructures, and those of us who choose to live and work in Louisiana will continue to complain about our economoy struggling.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2015, 01:58:03 PM by jbnv »
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DNAguy

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2015, 01:41:14 PM »

Dig it underground.

This is South Louisiana, not Boston. Too close to the coast, and too expensive.

So Lafayette is closer to the coast than Boston?

 :confused:
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Anthony_JK

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2015, 03:14:45 PM »

Dig it underground.

This is South Louisiana, not Boston. Too close to the coast, and too expensive.

So Lafayette is closer to the coast than Boston?

 :confused:

Not so much closer. but the coastal basin is deeper than in Boston, which would eliminate the possibility of an underground facility.
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: I-49 South/I-49 Lafayette Connector (The Ongoing Process To Progress)
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2015, 04:12:34 PM »

Forget the tunnel. Build the elevated highway. Just don't make it an eyesore.
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