Ascension Parish looks for public input as traffic problems grow with population
GONZALES - Traffic and narrow pot-filled roads are a growing problem in Ascension. The Parish is trying to fix it by holding an open house at the Lamar Dixon Expo Gym. The public was encouraged to voice what road improvements they'd like to see Tuesday night.
“Highway 44 needs to be four lanes all the way to 22, and 621 needs to be four lanes,” said Kathryn Doppelt, who attended the open house.
District 7 councilman and Transportation Chairman, Aaron Lawler was among those looking for suggestions.
“The northern part of the parish is huge, that’s where the growth has occurred over the past 20 years and we haven't kept up with that growth. This really should have started 20 years ago quite honestly,” said Lawler.
Lawler says money to pay for improvements is always a problem.
“We get between $6 million to $8 million a year. These projects, they cost millions of dollars."
The Parish has already set aside money for a number of projects through the Move Ascension Forward initiative.
"We have Rodney Road and Churchpoint Road here, what we're coming in and doing is putting in a roundabout,” said Jeff Burst, a senior project manager hired to run the initiative. “We're looking to create a grid with north, south, east and west corridors to help move traffic through and around the parish with better operational flow.”
But there are no projects in the works for 25 years from now. The Parish estimates 65,000 to 85,000 more people moving to the area by the year 2040. More people means more drivers sharing the lanes.
“Some people are leaving because they frankly don't like the traffic issues,” said Doppelt.
Doppelt says she’s glad to voice her suggestions for future street projects, but she wants to see more.
“We spend money on studies but, we're not doing projects as vigorously as we should,” she said.
Right now there are 22 road projects in the works through the Move Ascension Forward initiative. Many of those include widening streets, with six roundabouts being put in.