I-49 Lafayette Connector Project History

1987 Congressional authorization and funding.

1990 The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), working with the City of Lafayette (LCG) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), began studying the environmental impact of several corridors through the initiation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

1991 FHWA published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the portion of the Evangeline Thruway alignment from the I-10 interchange to the Lafayette Regional Airport in the Federal Register in January.

1992 A Public Hearing was held in July. Comments received at the Public Hearing led to the Draft EIS being withdrawn in December.

1993The Lafayette Areawide Planning Commission released the Lafayette North­South Corridor Study, “Path to Progress” that evaluated a No Build alternative and four corridor Build alternatives including:

      • Alternative No. 1 Western Bypass
      • Alternative No. 2 Eastern Alignment
      • Alternative No. 3 Evangeline Thruway
      • Alternative No. 4 Eastern Bypass

It also evaluated four alternative vertical alignments, including:

      • At-grade
      • Elevated
      • Depressed
      • Cut and cover

“The Evangeline Thruway corridor would be the only alternative that has a positive impact on the travel time costs, vehicle operating cost, network/volume capacity ratios, and benefit costs. The other alternative corridors would have no positive impacts on cost to benefit.”

“The improvements offered by the Evangeline Thruway corridor would have little or no adverse impact on the environment. Due to their structure, the Western Bypass, Eastern Bypass, and Eastern Alignment present a host of negative impacts, including the intrusion of a roadway through sensitive wetlands, intrusion of noise into primary residential areas, and displacement of delicate habitats.”

The Path to Progress recommended an elevated freeway on the Evangeline Thruway alignment from the Lafayette Regional Airport to the I-49/I-10 interchange.

On September 22, at a Public Hearing, the Transportation Policy Committee of the Commission adopted the Evangeline Thruway Corridor as the selected corridor for the I-49 project in the Lafayette area.

1994 Elevated freeway concept was adopted.

1997 FHWA and DOTD restarted the EIS process based on the Evangeline Thruway corridor and elevated freeway option.

1998 A second NOI to prepare an EIS was issued in April.

1999Blue Book” issued by University of Louisiana at Lafayette, School of Architecture Community Design Workshop following a series of public planning exercises. The purpose was to propose new approaches that would mitigate the effect of the I-49 Connector on existing neighborhoods.

The Blue Book reflected the concerns of some members of the community about the construction of an Interstate through the urban core of the city. The importance of the Blue Book is that it started the conversation that led to the decision to include the CSS process in the planning of the I-49 Connector.

2000 Draft EIS Public Hearing.

2001 In January and February, the Citizen Advisory Committee, the Transportation Technical Committee, and the Transportation Policy Committee of the Lafayette MPO held meetings to recommend a Locally Preferred Alternative Alignment.

Subsequently in February, the Lafayette City-Parish Planning Commission reviewed the recommendations of these committees and adopted Resolution No. 001-01 recommending a Locally Preferred Alternative Alignment.

Later that month, the Lafayette City-Parish Council, in its capacity as the Lafayette MPO, adopted Resolution No. 014-2001 to approve and identify the Locally Preferred Alternative Alignment as Alternative RR-4 with Sub-alternative F (MPO Subalternative), predicated on Jefferson and Simcoe Streets remaining open and continuous, and with Sub-alternative H north of Willow Street. The Resolution also recommended a Joint Cooperative Agreement between LCG, DOTD, and FHWA to coordinate and implement the concepts identified in the Blue Book as a basis for the concepts to be included in the final implementation plan in addition to the Corridor Preservation and Management Plan created by Ordinance No. 043-2001.

This plan constitutes an agreement between the DOTD and LCG, and was developed at the request of the FHWA in connection with work done as part of the EIS process. The Corridor Preservation Plan describes three planning areas:

      • Level I – the right-of-way footprint of the I-49 Connector, including interchanges.
      • Level II – the next 500 feet outside of the right-of-way.
      • Level III – those neighborhoods and areas outside of Level II that would be impacted.

The Corridor Preservation Plan outlined general responsibilities of the local, state, and federal agencies to attain the context sensitive commitments in the EIS. It also stipulated that right-of-way funding and acquisition by DOTD would commence in the Corridor in the period from issuance of the Record of Decision until construction of the project.

2002 The final Environmental Impact Statement was completed In April. DOTD and LCG executed the Corridor Preservation and Management Action Project to Preserve the I-49 Alignment (Corridor Preservation Plan). In August, following a Public Hearing, a Selected Alternative was identified.

2003 The Record of Decision (ROD), was issued by FHWA in January.

2004 The ROD was challenged by a lawsuit heard in federal court and was upheld.

2006 Detailed functional plan/CSS process begins. This phase of the project included:

      • Translation of the planning level EIS document to an engineering level of detail and accuracy to establish the detailed right-of-way footprint, so as to begin right-of-way acquisition as required by the Corridor Preservation Plan.
      • Initiation of the Context Sensitive Solutions CSS process, which began in 2007.
      • Updated detailed hazardous waste study to identify design treatments to remove and replace or otherwise mitigate contaminated areas, including safeguarding the Chicot Aquifer.
      • Updated traffic analysis throughout the corridor.

2007 In April, DOTD began the CSS process including Community, Technical, and Executive work groups, to shape the CSS design details, joint use agreements, and funding commitments. DOTD also prepared a draft Structural Concepts Study to define structure types under consideration at that time. This work was then placed on hold.

2015 Functional plan/CSS process re-started in July. The tasks included:

      • Re-starting the CSS process, including a Community Working Group (CWG), Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and an Executive Committee with the end result being a CSS Guidelines Manual and a Joint Use Development Plan with responsibilities for implementation specified amongst the agencies;
      • Developing the roadway/bridge geometric design details in concert with the CSS process;
      • Preparing an Environmental Re-evaluation due to elapsed time since the 2003 ROD. A re-evaluation reflects changed environmental conditions, if any, and changes to project design features;
      • Updating the inventory of historic structures to complete the Section 106 process;
      • Updating traffic engineering analysis;
      • Conducting extensive Communications and Outreach process to keep the community informed and involved; and
      • Conducting strategic planning to identify construction delivery methods, a funding plan, and an implementation timeline.

The next steps after the Functional Plan and CSS would be preliminary and final design and specifications in preparation for construction.

2016 After speaking with hundreds of community members and agency stakeholders through the CSS process and other outreach activities, it became apparent that the community desired a more in-depth discussion and evaluation of potential refinements to the original 2003 ROD concept for the I-49 Lafayette Connector. Several years had passed since the suspension of the last planning/design process, and the community had undergone significant changes.

In response, the DOTD and FHWA determined that it was appropriate to prepare a Supplemental EIS (SEIS).

As a result, the CSS process was deferred and a three-tier Concept Refinement Process (CRP) was initiated, which served as the Alternatives Analysis phase of the SEIS. The CRP extended throughout 2016 and into 2017. The CWG and TAC were convened as the principal outreach method of communication with the community. There also were public meetings and workshops, neighborhood meetings and walkabouts, and other outreach activities. A NOI to prepare a SEIS was issued on June 24, 2016.

In the first tier, the community:

      • Reviewed and discussed the changes that had taken place in the community;
      • Identified potential refinements to the 2003 Selected Alternative based on these changes; and
      • Developed 18 Concepts for the corridor, in addition to the continued consideration of the 2003 Selected Alternative in the Record of Decision. Also, 23 Potential Design Modifications (PDMs) were identified for consideration that could apply throughout the corridor, but not specifically to any one Refinement Concept.

In the second tier, the elements of the Concepts most favored by the community were combined into four Comparison Alternatives between Pinhook Road and the rail spur. Two of these were elevated and two were semi-depressed. These were included in a detailed technical study and were presented for discussion to the community.

2017 In March 2017, the recommendation by the Executive Committee was to advance the elevated roadway Comparison Alternatives that removed the interchanges at Johnston Street and at 2nd and 3rd Streets.

In the third tier, this Comparison Alternative was studied further. Between April and September, numerous options to address these community concerns and project needs were explored and were presented to the CSS Committees. The complexity of the design solutions warranted multiple rounds of discussions and iterations with the public to get a general level of agreement on the options that were acceptable to the community.

Based on these discussions, two Alternatives and a Sub-alternative were developed and presented to the CWG and TAC for comment before submitting them to the Executive Committee.

2018In February 2018, the Executive Committee recommended two Alternatives and a Sub-alternative be carried forward into analysis in the SEIS and the CSS process. At that time, the Alternatives were defined as follows:

      • Alternative 1 included a southbound exit to Downtown located within the Willow Street interchange area and the realignment of the Evangeline Thruway as a boulevard, generally between Taft and Simcoe Streets; and
      • Alternative 2 included a southbound exit to Downtown at 2nd Street and the realignment of the Evangeline Thruway as a boulevard, generally between Taft and Simcoe Streets.

The other elements of the two Alternatives were identical.

The Sub-alternative, which was designated Sub-alternative E, provided an Enhanced couplet on the existing alignment of the Evangeline Thruway between Taft Street and Simcoe Street. Sub-alternative E could be combined with the mainline of either Alternative.

Therefore, the CRP concluded with Refinement Alternatives that respond to the current aspirations of the community, streamline the design components, reduce the additional required ROW, and provide a more cost-effective project.

The Alternatives and Sub-Alternative improve upon the 2003 ROD Alternative as follows:

      • Eliminate the depressed SPUI intersections at 2nd and 3rd Streets and at Johnston Street;
      • Reduce ROW requirements at the intersection with University Avenue/Surrey Street and at interchange with Kaliste Saloom Road;
      • Eliminate the need to relocate a runway at the Lafayette Regional Airport;
      • Reduce or eliminate ROW impacts on the school, hotel property and the automobile dealership in the vicinity of the Kaliste Saloom interchange;
      • Realign the mainline and the Evangeline Thruway to minimize the adverse visual effects on the Sterling Grove Historic District and to eliminate the direct adverse effects on the Freetown Port-Rico Historic District;
      • Substantially increase the buffer between the elevated mainline and St. Genevieve Catholic Church by relocating the northbound entrance ramp;
      • Maintain transit vehicle access to the Rosa Parks Transportation Center along 6th Street;
      • Redesign the Willow Street interchange to reduce its footprint;
      • Redesign the Castille/MLK Drive intersection to maintain vehicular and pedestrian/bicycle connectivity across the ROW; and
        Incorporate creative design solutions to manage traffic movement south of Willow Street interchange.

2019 In 2019, prior to reinitiating the CSS process, DOTD determined for clarity that the four possible combinations of the two alternatives with the sub-alternative should be renamed as four independent alternatives as described below.

      • Alternative A aligns the Thruway as a boulevard and locates the southbound exit to Downtown within the Willow Street interchange.
      • Alternative B maintains the Thruway as a couplet and locates the southbound exit to Downtown within the Willow Street interchange.
      • Alternative C aligns the Thruway as a boulevard and locates the southbound exit to Downtown just north of the Thruway intersection with 2nd Street.
      • Alternative D maintains the Thruway as a couplet and locates the southbound exit to Downtown just north of the Thruway intersection with 2nd Street.

The table below summarizes the differences among the Refinement Alternatives:

Southbound exit to Downtown within Willow Interchange  X X
Southbound exit to Downtown at 2nd Street X X
Evangeline Thruway realigned to boulevard X X
Evangeline Thruway remains a couplet. X X

During most of 2019, DOTD, along with FHWA, LCG and APC, prepared to move forward with the CSS process for the project and advanced the following activities:

      • Planning for a series of six CSS workshops to address the various elements of the project;
      • Developing a Lafayette Connector Advisory Group (LCAG), combining the previous CWG and TAC, to participate in the workshops;
      • Planning the extension of the CSS community outreach through a series of public workshops and neighborhood meetings;
      • Completing the Historic Structures Inventory Update and planning the Section 106 Consultations to identify measures to minimize or mitigate adverse impacts to historic properties so that the consultations would be generally concurrent with the CSS process;
      • Preparing the drawings required to explain the structure options to the public;
      • Advancing the alignment design, including any modifications needed to incorporate potential Complete Streets opportunities and to avoid adverse impacts to historic resources; and
      • Preparing the sections of the SEIS that are not dependent on the outcomes of the CSS process and the Section 106 Consultations.

At the end of the year, the project was poised to restart the CSS process in March 2020.

Next Step after Functional Plan and CSS: Final design and specifications in preparation for construction.