Public (finally) can comment on I-49 at three meetings this week

A resident discuss the proposed Interstate 49 Lafayette Connector with consultants, March 31, 2016. (Photo: Claire Taylor/Daily Advertiser)

(The Daily Advertiser) – Got questions about the I-49 Lafayette connector project and haven’t been heard? You have three opportunities this week to ask questions of the consultants and state highway officials handling the project.

The general public has had little opportunity to ask questions and get answers since the planning process for the 5.5-mile connector project was resurrected in October 2015. Despite monthly meetings of two committees, the general public has been silenced, only allowed to “comment” via submitted cards which are not addressed during the meetings.

But from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Lafayette Connector Partners — including consultants hired to help with the process — are offering, for the first time, an open house public meeting at Progressive (Baptist Church) Community Outreach Center, 125 Gallian St., Lafayette.

In 2003, the federal government approved a route and preliminary design for the I-49 connector between Lafayette Regional Airport and its current terminus at I-10. Since the project sat undeveloped so long, public opinion about what was approved has changed some.

In February, 11 refinements to the 2003 concept were introduced, keeping the same route but changing things like where on- and off-ramps would be, changing the types of ramps and where railroad underpasses would be located.

On Wednesday, those involved in the process will be available to explain those new options and discuss them with residents and business owners.

The open house may be part of a new leaf the DOTD has turned over to quell the backlash from people on planning committees, elected officials and the general public over a lack of opportunity for residents to ask questions and offer reaction to the proposals.

Two committees reviewing the original plan and 11 new refinements meet this week and 20 minutes will be set aside before and after each for the public to ask questions, William Oliver, district engineer administrator with DOTD, said last week.

The community work group meets from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lafayette public library downtown, 301 W. Congress St.

The technical advisory committee meets from 10 a.m. until noon Friday at the library. Both are in the second floor meeting room.

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