By Matt Scallan
Published/LastModified on Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The Times-Picayune River Parishes Bureau
A survey of motorists Wednesday on Airline Highway in LaPlace will help determine the location of a proposed new Interstate 10 interchange in the Reserve area, according to St. John the Baptist Parish officials.
"We're looking for people in the Reserve area to tell us whether they are going to Baton Rouge or New Orleans and what routes they take to get there," said Bruce Richards, with the N-Y Associates engineering firm, which is conducting the survey for the Regional Planning Commission.
A western connection to I-10 has long been sought by St. John residents and industrial property owners. Heavy trucks carrying freight to the industrial plants in Reserve and Garyville must crawl through LaPlace's commercial district on Airline Highway, snarling traffic during peak commuting hours.
Motorists will be handed postcards with a short questionnaire about their trip's origin and destination and what routes they use. After filling the cards out, participants can drop them in the mail.
"We'll have signs out before the intersection telling people what's going on. We're not asking for money," Richards said.
The survey team especially wants information from truckers, Richards said.
"There's a lot of truck traffic coming out of the Port of South Louisiana, so they are an important part of the survey," Richards said.
"We currently have nine alternatives. We want to narrow that down to two," he said.
A draft environmental assessment was completed in 2004 and it was determined by state and federal officials in 2009 that a full Environmental Impact Statement was needed because of the amount of impacted wetlands, according to the Regional Planning Commission's history of the project.
The cost of the interchange will vary depending on location, because routes that travel over wetlands must be elevated, Richards said. The interchanges will be located to discourage development in wetlands.
The alternatives include a direct north-south connection from West 10th Street in Reserve, a western route that travels from Airline along the Hope Canal, and crosses the eastern tract of the Maurepas Wildlife Management area. Other alternatives include a loop just east of the St. John Airport that cuts across the fields north of Airline to an intersection with the Belle Terre-Interstate 10 interchange in LaPlace.
State and federal officials agreed that an environmental impact statement would be needed.
A map of the proposed alternatives can be seen at the Regional Planning Commission's website, www.norpc.org, on the NEPA page.
Traffic survey spots:
Marathon Avenue at Airline Highway
West 19th Street at Airline Highway
Rosenwald Street at Airline Highway
Louisiana 637 at Airline Highway (all approaches)
Louisiana 53 at Airline Highway
Homewood Place at Airline Highway
Louisiana 3179 at Airline Highway