LIVONIA – The very small town of Livonia is facing a very big problem. Residents here say their highway is a death trap.
The failure to make the roads safe could now cost Louisiana big bucks. One family is preparing to sue the state Department of Transportation.
Residents of Livonia will tell you that a left turn can cost you your life.
“I haven’t done so in 21 years,” Jeremy Lacombe said. “I’ll go out of my way to avoid making a left hand turn.”
Lacombe said his decision is based on the people he has lost. In 2001, Lacombe lost a close friend on Highway 190.
“She was driving down the road and tried to turn left when a van ran into her,” he said. It was enough to make up his mind about the stretch of highway.
Lacombe’s story is just one of many lives lost on Highway 190. Two decades ago, in 1996, the town started a fight to fix the problem. The battle between DOTD, the people of Livonia and the Pointe Coupee Police Jury has cost taxpayers throughout the state. Those dollars are going into more traffic studies.
DOTD’s findings list a number of reasons for the accidents, including blaming the town that collects nearly $60,000 a month in speeding fines for not enforcing speed limits. The state does not blame the lack of turn lanes.
In 2003, in a letter to Senator Mary Landrieu, DOTD admitted that the gaps in the guardrails are a problem. But still 10 years after sending that letter, they have done nothing to correct the flaws.
“The solution to it, naturally, is turn lanes,” Livonia Police Chief Brad Joffrion said.
Joffrion backs that statement up with statistics from one intersection, where the state has replaced guardrails with traffic lights and turn lanes. Since then, the Livonia Police Department has seen a 98 percent drop in accidents at the crossing.
But despite increasing patrols, a crackdown on drivers driving in the left lanes and spreading the word about the dangers of stopping to turn left, police continue to work their fair share of deadly crashes.
Last fall, Highway 190 took from Jeremy Lacombe again.
“And the first thing I asked was, ‘where was he going?’” Lacombe said. “'He took a left hand turn on 190?’ And she was like, ‘yeah.’”
Lacombe’s first cousin, Larry Scarabourgh was taken away by a trip to a gas station to cash a paycheck. He was waiting to turn left when he was rear ended and pushed into the path of an oncoming big rig.
“This is not a Livonia problem. It is not a Pointe Coupee problem. It’s a Louisiana problem,” Lacombe said.
DOTD has known WBRZ has been working on this story for weeks. We reached out to their spokesperson for an interview, but they declined.
Jury selection for the lawsuit against DOTD was supposed to begin Monday, however the trial has been delayed until next month.