“FINISH 3132” COALITION REQUESTS SUSPENSION UNTIL PUBLIC HEARINGby Elliott Stonecipher
The Finish 3132 Coalition yesterday entered into the state legislature’s public record its request for a public hearing into the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG) and Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD) process for construction of the Hwy. 3132 Extension. Kristi Johnston’s related article in this morning’s Shreveport Times can be read here.
The immediate response to my request of the Committee chairman, Bossier state Senator Robert Adley, was that he would meet to discuss the 3132 Extension project. When I asked in a follow-up question if any such meeting would be open to the public, Adley’s response was that he did not see how the meeting he was suggesting could be a public meeting.
The construction of the 3132 Extension has been previously and publicly supported by members of the Caddo Parish legislative delegation, and Senators Sherri (Cheek) Buffington and Barrow Peacock have been particularly helpful in the Coalition’s work. Newly elected Senator Greg Tarver has also expressed his support publicly, and directly to the Coalition. How those expressions of support might yield a public hearing outside the manipulations of process by various public agencies and private interests is unclear.
Based on eight months of research, it is the Coalition’s position that the governmental process related to the 3132 Extension has inexplicably failed, repeatedly and for decades. Accordingly, my request of the Committee on behalf of the Coalition was that the $800,000 “feasibility study” now underway be suspended unless and until the public can be made aware of still-developing evidence of those facts in a public hearing specifically for that purpose. (The Coalition will pursue its original Public Records Request of NLCOG, made on December 15th, in a district court hearing later this month.)
The second part of my remarks to the Committee in yesterday’s meeting was expression of the Coalition’s strong opposition to the NLCOG and DOTD plan to construct a $2,000,000-plus Flournoy-Lucas Road entrance for the Esplanade subdivision planned by developer Tim Larkin. The entrance would require property belonging to the adjacent Glen retirement center, though The Glen has previously and publicly noted that it has no interest in participation in such. That position notwithstanding, NLCOG led private meetings – except for one of the meetings which I attended – to negotiate the details of the project. Taxpayer money will be used for the project, and it is the position of DOTD / NLCOG that such work is routinely done for private interests such as Larkin. Severely and negatively impacted by the work will be the residents of the Acadiana Place subdivision.
NLCOG notes that this project to benefit Esplanade will not proceed if a “no build” decision is made on the 3132 Extension. In reading these governmental tea leaves – which is all the public can do – this is a strong indication that a “no build” determination will therefore NOT occur. To get the Esplanade entrance built on the taxpayer’s dime, NLCOG must come up with some Extension route option. The result will be an expensive and traffic-flow-confusing Flournoy – Lucas median-cut and interchange with the Hwy. 3132 entrance/exit.
In the broader context, therefore, we read the tea leaves to say some other route recommendation will come from NLCOG (they will say it is coming from their “experts”), but at a cost so high as to effectively kill – again and finally – the Extension. The construction of a 60″ natural gas pipeline through the proposed southeasterly route for the Extension – coincidentally (?) being built as the Stage 0 “Feasibility Study” is underway – may also greatly increase project costs if right-of-way purchase was ever actually going to occur.
NOTE: NLCOG will loudly proclaim that the project is going to get built, federal money will be used, and once thus blessed, the 3132 Extension will be entered into the state highway construction prioritization lottery. Though the Esplanade entrance will then be built with taxpayer money, everything else will wait.
Ironically, most of the discussion and public comment at yesterday’s meeting dealt with how little money government has to spend on transportation needs. Given what we have learned in this effort, that is no surprise:
— The $800,000 “feasibility study” underway has been done at least three previous times since 1973, with specific Extension routes selected then quickly killed by construction of subdivisions exactly on top of the route.
— Our current iteration of such waste of public money includes a pledge by the state Secretary of Transportation to, if necessary, reimburse the Federal Highway Administration for its cost in the construction of the last leg of the 3132 Extension from Bert Kouns to Flournoy-Lucas, estimated to be over $20,000,000.
— The entrance to Tim Larkin’s Esplanade subdivision will cost over $2,000,000.
If money for such transportation projects is really scarce, someone who is responsible for such might take a look at the Hwy. 3132 Extension history. It is a case study in just how much available money is completely wasted.
Presently, “Union, Justice, Confidence” is the Louisiana state motto. If nothing else, I think we should ask our supporters in the state legislative to pass a law changing our motto to …
… You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.
For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.
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