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Iberville Parish residents say 'not so fast' to off-duty deputy hired to direct neighborhood traffic

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ST. GABRIEL - Turns out, not everyone is happy with the way one neighborhood is dealing with traffic.

The University Club Homeowner's Association in East Baton Rouge Parish hired an off-duty sheriff's deputy to direct traffic at the entrance to its neighborhood. The residents were so fed up with a lack of solutions from officials about traffic congestion the HOA took matters into their own hands. Now, some people are trying to put the brakes on that.

One of those people is St. Gabriel Police Chief Kevin Ambeau.

"I don't think it's illegal but I know one thing, it's not fair," he said.

For the last couple of months, Ambeau says the calls have been constant. Wednesday morning he said he received a phone call from a woman who was crying on the phone after experiencing an 18-wheeler slam on the brakes behind her as she stopped to traffic in front of her. The caller had said it happened on LA 30 heading toward University Club, where a deputy was directing traffic.

Ambeau says there are thousands of drivers taking LA-30 from St. Gabriel to Baton Rouge every day.

"Their safety's important, too," said Ambeau. "I want to be neighborly with the people in University Club but what they're doing is not fair."

The residents calling St. Gabriel PD are sitting in traffic. They're waiting for a subdivision of about 700 households to empty onto LA 30. Tuesday, 2 On Your Side sat down with U-Club HOA Administrator Steve Lousteau who says it was done for the safety of the residents.

"We think it's the right thing to do for our residents," said Lousteau. "It's made their life a lot easier and a lot safer."

U-Club residents are loving the hired assistance. They say it's helping to cut down their morning commute, as vehicles often back up along University Club Drive a quarter of a mile deep.

"Now it's easy to take a right onto the road without worrying about getting into an accident," said U-Club resident Courtney Morel.

U-Club HOA says hiring a deputy was not it's first choice. DOTD performed a traffic study in December 2018 and its results did not find the traffic volume was large enough to warrant a stop light.

U-Club is located off LA 30 along the EBR-Iberville Parish line. Neighboring subdivisions say while it's helping one neighborhood, everyone else is suffering.

"To me, it's not a safety issue it's an inconvenience issue," said University Club South resident Adam Davis.

LA-30 drivers like Davis say while it's more convenient for some it's creating an even bigger safety issue for drivers stacked up on LA 30 waiting for the traffic exiting U-Club and turn onto the highway. It's also adding about 10-15 minutes to their drive time.

"Eighteen-wheelers that are going 60 mph and coming to a dead stop all the sudden, obviously those vehicles can't stop quite like cars do," said Davis.

While there might be a lot of traffic along LA 30, Davis says there has to be a better solution to solving the U-Club traffic issue.

"Put in an acceleration lane, which again to me should be a pretty easy approval by DOTD, leave a little bit earlier, a little bit later, or move," he said. "Don't live in a neighborhood that has 800 or 1,000 houses with one entrance and one exit."

Chief Ambeau agrees there's a better solution.

"What if I decide to put a deputy at University Club South and put a deputy at Spanish Lakes?" said Ambeau. "That would be a nightmare on Highway 30."

It's why he's asking to arrange a meeting between himself, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, EBRSO, and DOTD to come to a solution.

Both parish sheriff's offices say they are open to a meeting. EBRSO says there is a safety issue when it comes to people exiting U-Club safely during the morning rush, which is why the sheriff's office assists and plans to continue to assist to ensure safety. Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi says like Chief Ambeau, he's worried about the safety of his residents driving along LA-30 who have to come to a sudden stop.

No meeting date has been set.


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