The705: I-49 Task Force February Discussion Notes

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The705 is an organization for young leaders in Acadiana. We recognize the importance of the I-49 Connector to the long-term prosperity of Lafayette and Louisiana. And we understand the role we must play in helping shape what will be the largest infrastructure project in Lafayette’s history. We appreciate the opportunity the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process affords to contribute constructively and we look forward to participating throughout the process in an engaged and effective manner.

We believe the Connector presents a unique opportunity to breathe life into a neglected area of Lafayette. Below are the principles that we firmly believe must be reflected in the final design of the Connector if it is to reflect community consensus and act as a catalyst project toward reinvestment.

February Discussion Notes

Permeability should be a primary goal of the connector.

  • The connector should increase connectivity across the connector including all modes of transportation.
  • Invest in the Grid: Recognize the connected grid network that exists, design access to “plug in” to this grid network and expand the grid network wherever possible.
  • Minimally Disrupt the Grid: Avoid high-speed surface streets, and minimize sub-grade streets that flow under the railway.  Access ramps should not require sub-grade.
  • Redevelopment Plans should support, Interact, and collaborate with redevelopment plans for the Evangeline Thruway including the roadway itself
  • Allow every-other street to go under the railway (like Jefferson) and alternately at-grade across railway, adding a new crossing between Jefferson and Johnston at Lee Ave.
  • The improved grid provided by the corridor should provide an urban design vision, and implement through zoning, streetscape plans, and incentivized redevelopment.
The connector should acknowledge and adhere to the goals of our Comprehensive Plan.

  • Over the past few years, our community has done significant work putting in place a comprehensive plan focused on rethinking how we build in our community.
  • The EIS findings should be compared to new factors and measures as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Action Plan and the revised connector plan should positively reflect these updates.
  • The final design should reflect the significant work that the residents and government leaders of Lafayette have done crafting a vision for our community and putting in place a comprehensive plan that, executed properly, will allow us to realize that vision. One of the big ideas of the plan is revitalizing our neighborhoods, particularly by acknowledging the way that traffic can either mend or tear the delicate fabric out of which a vibrant community is woven.
  • Given what we now know, we should reevaluate the need for conventional one-way, high-speed, suburban-style service roads, opting for alternatives that will allow for a more traditional network of streets—a grid—that will connect and integrate the neighborhoods and communities on both sides of the Connector, rather than serve to further separate them.
  • The corridor plan should take a complete streets approach when addressing the redevelopment of our existing local streets.
The Downtown Lafayette interchanges (Johnston and 2nd/3rd) should be reconsidered.

  • The interchanges in the current plans are an outdated design by federal standards and expensive. Their footprint, estimated to consume approximately nine neighborhood blocks each, would remove a great deal of property from commerce – property that otherwise could be developed and put to productive use.
  • Each of these interchanges will increase speeds on and off of the connector at the cost of economic loss to the corridors that interface these interchanges and the safety of pedestrians and motorists in these areas.
  • Contrary to the ROD, which pledges not to further divide the city of Lafayette, the planned columns, dirt berms, walls and other infrastructure required to accommodate the two downtown interchanges right next to each other create a visible and speed barrier to crossing the connector as a pedestrian and motorist.
  • In the preliminary design the downtown interchanges appear to have more travel lanes, exit/on ramp lanes and feeder lanes which seem excessive since these are more than I-10 at I-49.
  • There are currently four interchanges on I-10 in a 4-mile stretch through Lafayette, which can challenge the number of interchanges we actually need on I-49 through Lafayette.
  • An elongated Interchange that plugs into grid (From Moss to Pinhook) should be explored instead of the SPUI model.
  • The currently locations of interchanges are prime locations for gateways and entrances into the core of our region and the current interchange design does not take advantage of this opportunity in a positive way.
  • The preliminary interchange design has several elements that are no longer considered best practices for the goals that they were put in the plan to accomplish. The single point urban interchanges, the berm/wall through the downtown district, the closing of several streets, and several tunnels built for pedestrian use.
Elevation and spacing of the interstate connector should be reevaluated.

  • The final design should also reevaluate the elevation of the Connector and the spacing between its mainline structures.
  • Critical to space that works is an elevated freeway under which there is an open and inviting environment, and freeways that are higher up with spans farther apart are vital to fostering such an environment. This is especially important in light of the conversations we will have in near future regarding green space, parks, farmers’ markets, and other similar attractions that have the potential to be iconic gathering places for many years to come.
  • As currently planned, the elevation and lack of space between lanes of the Lafayette Connector creates shade and shadows for an uninviting and potentially dangerous atmosphere beneath the connector and areas immediately adjacent.
  • The at-grade section of the connector proposed for the downtown area in between the Johnston and 2nd/3rd Street interchanges presents a challenge. With an interstate of this size, additional construction and maintenance expenses are required to mitigate the loss of connectivity. Overpasses, requiring large footprints, and underpasses, which require additional drainage and bring environmental concerns, will have to be built to provide access to pedestrians and local traffic.
  • The at-grade section acts as a direct barrier between areas where connectivity is needed. Current plans include one pedestrian crossing, a 1200-foot underground passageway shared with motor vehicle traffic, located at Jefferson Street. Lack of fresh air and sunlight in this planned underground corridor creates an unsafe and unwelcoming environment that will discourage its use.
  • The downtown area is the perfect location for a signature bridge or significantly elevated stretch of the connector, which would serve as a monumental gateway to a pedestrian friendly downtown. Underneath, and effective and robust city grid street system with pedestrian and bike lanes would further encourage the growth and connectivity of our city.
  • Any signature bridge should utilize wide spans so as to reduce the number of support columns needed and maintaining an area open to air and sunlight with the fewest possible obstructions.
Surrounding neighborhoods have a unique set of needs and opportunities that should be addressed by the connector.

  • The EIS and ROD will require revision at a minimum; because, the preliminary design does not take into account the Freetown – Port Rico neighborhood’s likely listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The preliminary design calls for the demolition of several buildings, which are listed as contributing to the historic designation.
  • The edges of the elevated roadway should have state-of-the art noise reduction techniques employed so as not to depreciate the quality of life near the corridor due to negative impacts of sound from interstate traffic.
The projected increased traffic load at the I-10 I-49 interchange must be addressed with design and construction of the connector.

  • With the right access, the connector can achieve goals of both local and through traffic.
  • Although the goal of the freeway is to remove traffic from the area, the goal of the revitalization effort is to increase traffic, but the right kind—local traffic driven by people who want to live, visit, or shop in the area, which will result in a better quality of life, increased property values, and increased property and sales tax collections.
  • The EIS projections are that 9% of the connector’s traffic will be through traffic (external to external). With that in mind we should not sacrifice local commerce and connectivity within the corridor in order to improve transit times solely to decrease transit times for this through traffic.
  • Realistic and current traffic models and projects need to be considered and projected average daily traffic outlined in the EIS should be compared to actual average daily traffic numbers. New and actual traffic models should be reconsidered and studied since the EIS was completed and the plan should be updated to reflect these more known and realistic numbers.
Frontage roads should be reevaluated.

  • We can rethink frontage roads to be compatible with the interests of a more successful street system.
  • The vision is for a more traditional network of streets, a grid, that would connect and better integrate the neighborhoods and communities on both side of the freeway, and frontage roads would frustrate that vision.
  • The slip ramp access to Evangeline Thruway could be designed in conjunction with a reestablished street network to function much the same as the proposed feeder roads would, while minimizing the connector’s footprint and allowing better economic development options (e.g. multiway boulevard).
The design should allow for construction in phases.

  • The design should take into account the budgetary constraints of the city and state, and should allow for construction in phases if necessary.
  • The design should allow for development within the corridor in the case that funding and construction take longer than anticipated and at the very least not continue with the downward slide, which was not prevented by earlier planning.