The following was release by the Lafayette Consolidated Government:
LAFAYETTE, La.– Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) has announced that after two years of planning and public input, the Congress Street restriping project will soon become a reality.
Beginning at Grant and Second Streets along Congress to Evangeline Drive (near University Avenue), the current four-to-five lane, 0.9 mile stretch of roadway will be converted to two travel lanes with a center turning lane to create room for on-street parking and safer pedestrian mobility. The project will increase safety and convenience for all roadway users by improving crosswalks and slowing traffic, while also enhancing the quality of place for residents and businesses along the corridor and adjacent neighborhoods.
The first step in the plan was initiated this past Saturday when the contractor, Southern Synergy, LLC, began removing the existing road markings. The second phase will consist of restriping the roadway, creating the new parking spaces, driving and turning lanes, crosswalks and pedestrian paths. The project is expected to be completed within the next few weeks but the timeline is highly dependent on weather. The contractor will be working on weekends to minimize delays for drivers.
National studies show these types of conversion projects have increased safety for all transportation users. In 2014, the Metropolitan Planning Organization hosted a national expert on walkability to conduct an audit of the corridor and this Congress Street project implements some of those recommendations. The audit came on the heels of PlanLafayette that included the Downtown Action Plan which identified the arterials around Downtown as a barrier to adjacent neighborhoods.
“This restripe will adjust motorists to an appropriate speed in an area that sees a lot of pedestrian traffic, especially since the re-opening of the Main Library,” said Warren Abadie, LCG Chief Traffic Engineer. “As part of the project, we analyzed the safety data along this section of Congress Street and found a significant number of traffic crashes. We also analyzed the existing traffic conditions and confirmed that the increase in traffic delays would be minimal when compared to the expected safety benefits.” The current traffic counts of Congress Street illustrate the roadway carries 16,000 vehicles daily. Studies show volumes of traffic under 20,000 cars can be accommodated by three lanes, well under the threshold.
This project is the first phase of re-envisioning Downtown and the Congress Street corridor. The city recently completed a comprehensive rezoning in the LaPlace neighborhood, just north of Downtown, and has plans to continue outreach to the landowners in the Congress Street area regarding their zoning. This type of street conversion will better serve all roadway users and facilitates increased opportunities for redevelopment.
“Congress Street was originally envisioned in 1981 as a suburban arterial for moving vehicles as quickly as possible through Downtown. Once built, the street became a barrier to those trying to walk or bike between Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, and it increased vehicle speeds so much that it resulted in an unsafe environment for all users. Reconfiguring the street will not only remove the barrier between the neighborhoods, but also spur development along the corridor as outlined in our Downtown Action Plan,” said Nathan Norris, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).
“We are excited about this project for several reasons. Uptown Lofts and Studio 333 were always intended to serve as a residence for people who work and play Downtown, but Congress Street has been a physical barrier that did not allow our residents to get there safely. In addition, the inclusion of new bike lanes will promote better connectivity to our neighborhood,” said John Arceneaux, Chairman of the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority.
Local musician and corridor resident and property owner, Wilson Savoy, stated the street conversion project couldn’t have come at a better time. “I’ve owned a home on the corner of Congress and Cedar Crest for nearly 10 years. This past winter, my house was hit by a driver which caused over $15,000 in damages. I’ve witnessed the death of a young man on a motorcycle and two neighbors’ houses and fences hit by cars. All of these accidents were caused by one car swerving right from cars trying to turn left,” he said. “A turning lane undoubtedly would have prevented all of these accidents, and single travel lanes will slightly slow down the flow of traffic and improve the quality of life of Downtown residents.”
The plan doesn’t only present an opportunity for a safer, speed appropriate street; it also gives those who live and work along the corridor easier access to the social assets that are cultivated by Downtown life and business district. “With the reopening of the Main Library, Congress Street is a natural cultural corridor. The cultural and recreational attractions in the area, including the library, the Lafayette Science Museum and Children’s Museum, Parc Sans Souci, and galleries create a great pathway from the northern neighborhoods into Downtown. This project will emphasize our cultural assets and make them more easily accessible,” said Mayor-President Joel Robideaux.
“The Library has been working with the city on this project, and we recognize real benefits to our patrons and employees from this change. With so many people crossing Congress Street on foot to access our facility every day, safety is a major concern,” said Teresa Elberson, Director of the Lafayette Public Library.
LCG, the Lafayette Public Library System and DDA are planning an official ribbon cutting and street crossing in conjunction with the September 10 ArtWalk. More details will be made available in the coming weeks.