Frequently Asked Questions
In 1993, the Lafayette Areawide Planning Commission initiated a six-month study of the possible corridors for the I-49 Connector. Their findings were published as the Lafayette North-South Corridor Study: Path to Progress, which can be found on the project website here: https://lafayetteconnector.com/download/lafayette-north-south-corridor-study-path-to-progress/.
The Path to Progress evaluated four possible corridors and structure types. The criteria used to judge each option included traditional highway cost/benefit, public safety, environmental effects, and quality of life. The Evangeline Thruway was determined to be the best corridor.
In 2001, following a Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the Lafayette City-Parish Council, in its capacity as the Lafayette MPO, adopted a resolution to approve and identify the Locally Preferred Alternative Alignment as Alternative RR-4 with Sub-alternative F (MPO Sub-alternative) and Sub-alternative H. This is the alternative that was approved in the 2003 Record of Decision (ROD), which can be found on the project website here: https://lafayetteconnector.com/download/record-of-decision/.
The current work is a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) to determine the environmental effects of modified alternatives, also within the Evangeline Thruway corridor, and to identify the measures required to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects.
Since the project was reinitiated in 2015, an extensive community outreach process has been conducted, which, to date, has substantially modified the alternative defined in the 2003 ROD. As the design is further examined by DOTD, and by the community through the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process that includes neighborhood, public and committee workshops, other modifications are being considered. At the end of this evaluation phase, a Preferred Alternative will be identified in the Draft SEIS.
Following a Public Hearing, a Record of Decision (ROD) identifying the selected alternative will be issued by FHWA. The project will advance into the Final Design and begin construction after the issuance of the ROD based on funding availability.
An SEIS is prepared when new alternatives and/or new information needs consideration following a ROD. An SEIS is being prepared for this project because new alternatives were identified in 2017 and must be evaluated and compared to the 2003 ROD Alternative.
The purpose is to complete I-49 South to connect Lafayette and New Orleans; the needs of the I-49 Connector include:
- System Linkage
- Existing and Projected Traffic Conditions
- Regional Transportation and Land Use Plans
- Legislation and Governmental Support
- Modal Interrelationships
- Hurricane Evacuation
- Economic Factors
Typically, the capital and maintenance costs of the roadway transportation improvements and any mitigation of adverse impacts are funded by the DOTD with assistance from the FHWA. Other project elements, for example street lighting, might be constructed by DOTD but would be maintained by the local authority responsible for street lighting. The construction, as well as the maintenance of any non-transportation-related joint use projects, would typically be financed by others. Funding resources and delivery methods for the project as well as the phasing of the construction will, in part, be determined by available funding.
Cost related to reconstruction of Evangeline Thruway as a one-way couplet or as a boulevard will be included in the cost of the overall project. It is unlikely that the city would have construction cost responsibilities unless it requests modifications or additions to the design beyond what the state typically would construct. However, local governments typically are responsible for maintenance of sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, and other street amenities.
The “transportation purpose” of a project is the project element or elements that meet the Purpose and Need. In the case of the I-49 Connector, this is the construction of an interstate highway connecting the I-49/I-10 interchange with the next I-49 segment in the vicinity of the Lafayette Regional Airport. Other transportation elements, such as improvements to the Evangeline Thruway and certain bicycle and pedestrian facilities related to the interstate highway, may be found to have a transportation purpose and may be eligible for transportation funding. The FHWA would make the decision. Also eligible for transportation funding are the measures identified in a ROD as mitigation for the adverse impacts of the elements with a transportation purpose.
A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) has been completed for the corridor. Currently, Phase II ESAs are being conducted in those areas of the proposed right-of-way as indicated by the Phase I findings and as required by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ).
Any remediation costs will be estimated pending completion of the Phase II ESAs, the determination of remediation measures, and the identification of a preferred alternative.
Entrance and exit ramps, both north and south of Downtown, are planned to replace the interchanges at Johnston Street and 2nd/3rd Streets that were included in the 2003 ROD Alternative. These ramps would connect with a rehabilitated Evangeline Thruway that would intersect with local streets leading into Downtown.
The runoff from an elevated highway, if there is sufficient capacity in the storm water system of the surrounding area, can be directed into that system. If the capacity is not available, other measures, such as additional/larger storm sewer systems and/or retention or detention ponds, could be employed. The necessary analysis to determine how the runoff from the Connector will be directed has not been completed.
The 2003 ROD alternative would have resulted in the relocation of a runway, but it is anticipated that the Federal Aviation Administration will approve a modification that is intended to eliminate the relocation.
One of the commitments in the 2003 ROD states “DOTD will provide the provision of increasing the elevation of the roadway structure above the minimum requirement.” This has resulted in the current plan to elevate the roadway structure to 22 feet above the ground, which exceeds the minimum requirement of 16 1/2 feet. Depending on further community input, other heights could be considered.
The current plan is that the structures would be 10 feet apart in Downtown and 5 feet apart elsewhere. Again, depending on further community input, other distances could be considered.
The corridor is being planned to provide six lanes for mid- and long-distance trips on the interstate and four lanes for local trips on the Evangeline Thruway. This will give regional and local travelers the option of using either the Thruway or the interstate depending on where they would get on and where they are going. This plan greatly removes longer distance through trips from the surface streets, which will reduce congestion on the Thruway and the local network.
There has been some discussion of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but it is best to study detailed plans for these improvements after the alignments of the alternatives are determined. Also, state and local Complete Streets policies must be considered.
Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that plans, designs, operates, and maintains streets to provide access, mobility and safety, for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation.
DOTD Complete Streets Policy: http://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Multimodal/Highway_Safety/Complete_Streets/Pages/default.aspx
Metropolitan Planning Organization Complete Streets Policy: https://www.lafayettela.gov/docs/default-source/comprehensive-plan-documents/build/appendix-h-lmpo-complete-streets-policy.pdf?sfvrsn=54d20a78_2
No, but there are Control of Access restrictions on frontage roads and connecting roads relative to ramp terminals.
With much less traffic expected on the Thruway, a lower design speed along the Evangeline Thruway will be considered during the traffic evaluation.
No, because the I-49 Connector is intended to provide the capacity needed during evacuation events. However, the Acadiana Planning Commission has evaluated the impacts of the I-49 Connector on the local grid system and found a positive impact on the local grid.
A “Signature Bridge” is an iconic, typically long-span structure, that can be architecturally significant and have potential historic and cultural references. A “Landmark Feature” could take many forms, including a Signature Bridge, to enhance the overall transportation corridor for identity and place-making purposes, but could include gateway monuments, large-scale landscape elements, major public art features and other urban design features.
This will be discussed with the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG), the residents of this area, and Sterling Grove Historic District and will take place during the neighborhood meetings that are planned as part of the CSS process and through other community outreach efforts.
An analysis of the potential for the alternatives to stimulate economic development is not part of the current I-49 Connector project. However, a number of design elements that could stimulate or complement economic development are included and will be discussed during the CSS process with the LCG and other stakeholders.
The alignment was selected in the 2003 ROD and follows the existing Evangeline Thruway corridor. DOTD currently is evaluating the modifications that came out of the Concept Refinement Phase in 2017. The SEIS will evaluate the modifications and the final decision with regard to the refinements will be published in a Record of Decision following the public hearing on the Draft SEIS.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation (ACHP) be given an opportunity to comment on the potential effects of a project on historic resources. When a project begins, the sponsoring agencies, in this case FHWA and DOTD, contact the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) to initiate the Section 106 process. In most cases, following a consultation process, this results in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the sponsors, the FHWA, and the SHPO that defines the measures to mitigate any adverse effects. If these parties cannot agree, the ACHP considers the unresolved issues.
A new MOA will be needed for three principal reasons:
- The 2002 MOA expired in 2017;
- The project has changed in many ways; it will have different effects on historic resources and, potentially, require different mitigation measures; and
- There is a new historic district, Freetown-Port Rico, that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
The Section 106 process has three principal steps: identification of the resources, determination of the effects, and development of mitigation measures. The first of these is complete. See the Historic Architecture Resource Inventory Update, Volumes I and II at the following link: https://lafayetteconnector.com/project-library/#1485986004253-24c2fe5d-c412
The other steps cannot be undertaken until the modified alternatives have been defined.
The project currently is not anticipated to have a direct physical impact on any historic properties. Pending identification of the alternatives and the Section 106 process, there may be adverse visual impacts.
Potential Impacts and Mitigation
Two of the commitments in the 2003 ROD address this issue:
Commitment 3.9 acknowledges the potential for contamination through groundwater/surface water interchange and states that this will be addressed through special design techniques and plan review procedures involving USEPA, LDEQ, and other appropriate agencies.
Commitment 3.7 offers the following special design techniques that could be used:
- Excavation to a depth of 15 ft, disposal at an appropriate offsite location, and backfilling with clean material;
- Excavation to a depth of 5 ft, disposal at an appropriate offsite location, capping the excavated area, and backfilling with clean material;
- Excavation of footing locations only; and
- Drilling (instead of pile driving) and using a slurry seal to prevent downward migration of contamination.
No decision has been made pending completion of the Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.
One way a highway can assist future development is by reducing congestion and improving connectivity. This project is designed to accomplish both.
No, noise analysis typically is done after the alternatives have been defined.
The area that may be contaminated between Taft/16th Street and 3rd Street currently is designated as suitable for Industrial use by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ).
Section 2.9. Land Use of LDEQ’s Risk Evaluation / Corrective Action Program (RECAP) states “Current and future land use shall be determined in order to characterize the activities and activity patterns of the potentially exposed population. The current and future land use category … is subject to Department approval.”
Section 2.9.1 Industrial/Commercial states “Industrial/Commercial land use refers to any property not currently used for human habitation on a permanent or temporary / intermittent basis…” It goes on to list hundreds of specifically allowed uses, using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).
Allowed uses include many types of businesses, hotels, fitness clubs, and much more. Disallowed uses include childcare and child social service facilities; kindergarten through post-graduate academic institutions; hospitals and residential care facilities; private homes; boarding houses, RV parks; correctional facilities; nature parks; and water supply and irrigation facilities. The NAICS codes are largely meant to help organize data for commercial entities, not all land uses. The code does not include small parks, farmers’ markets, tennis courts, or dog parks. Those uses are not explicitly allowed or disallowed.
More information available on LDEQ website: https://www.deq.louisiana.gov/page/recap