Lafayette adding new bridge over the Vermilion River

bridge

Eleven years after the controversial Camellia Bridge was opened, Lafayette officials have set their sights on building another crossing over the Vermilion River to alleviate traffic on Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

“Everybody knows what traffic looks like between Thanksgiving and Christmas on Ambassador,” said Kevin Blanchard, chief development officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government. “In 15 to 20 years, that’s what Ambassador is going to be like on a daily basis.”

South City Parkway, an extension of Duhon Road which intersects with Johnston Street at the Southside Library, would be extended from Robley Drive to either Verot School Road or Vincent Road, with a bridge across the Vermilion River. The area where the road and bridge would be built is largely undeveloped.

The river crossing would allow motorists who aren’t going to shops along Ambassador Caffery Parkway, including Acadiana Mall, to bypass that area, Blanchard said. Traffic projections indicate if the bridge were built today, about 50,000 vehicles would use it every day, he said.

“There are only two road projects identified by name in the comprehensive plan: I-49 and South City Parkway,” Blanchard said. “This is the No. 1 bang-for-the-bucks way to alleviate traffic on Ambassador Caffery.”

City officials are in the process of selecting an engineering firm to determine the best place for the bridge, not to actually engineer or design the bridge, City-Parish President Joey Durel said. That step is necessary as the city looks at buying property to prevent construction of homes and businesses that would have to be sacrificed for the road and bridge, he said.

Camellia Bridge is the most recent Vermilion River crossing built in Lafayette. About 90 houses had to be purchased to clear a path for the road and bridge that opened in 2003.

The South City Parkway bridge and road extension is projected to cost about $50 million and could be built in phases, Blanchard said.

It probably would be built as a four-lane boulevard like Settlers Trace Boulevard, with permanent green space that would serve as a buffer between the traffic and homes and provide recreational opportunities like bike paths, he said.

Durel would like to see it built in the next five to 10 years using what he called “the airport model” of funding.

Lafayette voters on Dec. 6 approved a 1 percent sales tax to be collected for eight months in 2015 to build a new terminal and parking at Lafayette Regional Airport. The tax automatically expires Nov. 30, 2015.

Durel, who is approaching the final year of his final term in office, said he has been suggesting a temporary tax to fund specific projects like this, but the project needs to be shovel-ready and the bridge isn’t.

“I can see in two, three, five years from now, the next administration and council saying, ‘We’re ready for this bridge. Let’s go for a six-, eight-, 10-month tax’,” Durel said.

A new bridge across the Vermilion River at College Road has been on the planning maps for years. But a model of that crossing suggested the bridge would create more traffic problems at South College and Pinhook roads than it would alleviate, Durel said.

blog comments powered by Disqus