by Elliott Stonecipher
For the next eighteen months or so, those who care about the LA Hwy. 3132 Extension to the Port of Caddo-Bossier will want to focus on the conduct and completion of the project’s Stage 1 Feasibility Study. Its “kick-off,” or Project Initiation, meeting was held Monday, August 18, 2014.
Regardless that the meeting was closed to the public and news media, one of the participating agencies – the Port of Caddo-Bossier, a body critical to successful completion of the Extension – prepared a transcription of the action. In response to our Coalition’s Public Records Request, that document was made available to us, and may be read here. An additional “Meeting Report” from and by the consulting engineer for the project, BKI, Inc., was also produced.
After studying these documents and talking with Port officials and others in attendance, it certainly seems that this Stage 1 study process is off to a positive start. Such is a dramatic difference from the Stage 0 “study.”
As documented on our Finish 3132.com website, the Stage 0 “study” was mainly a political op heavily favoring the interests, preferences and needs of real estate developer and Bossier City Councilman Tim Larkin in promotion of his Esplanade housing subdivision in Southeast Shreveport.
Potentially very different, this Stage 1 Study is mainly the work of the Federal Highway Administation (FHWA), with the $1.2 million cost of the study paid for with federal rather than state tax dollars. BKI replaces the Buchart-Horne, Inc., team from the Stage 0 confection. Of course, the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), our Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), and the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD) are still involved.
In total, twenty staffers of involved companies and agencies participated in the meeting, one of them by telephone. No one was surprised that the only comments critical of maximum transparency in the process came from two local public employees involved in this debacle for more than twenty years.
Counter-balancing those remarks were positive ones made by more than one member of the BKI team – specifically including meeting leader Paul Waidhas – as well as those of Port Executive Director Eric England and Jan Grenfell, the Environmental Section staffer with LA DOTD.
There was much discussion in this meeting about how public information might be shared with those who pay for it … the public.
At the core of the matter is the devout intention of some officials to deliberately pick certain hearing / meeting devices and formats because they have proven over time to reliably inhibit or prevent freedom of information.
This fact was well proven in the Stage 0 study when certain Extension route alternatives discovered by the Coalition were deliberately withheld from public knowledge, much less consideration.
To underscore just how staunchly opposed to transparency and public involvement some of these officials are, one repeat offender said in the meeting that such information sharing is in a category he calls “blah, blah, blah,” and another sneered that work such as this very Coalition article labels the writer as – good Lord Amighty!! – a blogger. The blogger-hater also noted that “a website can function as a public hearing.” That’s a quote, friends.
Such ridiculousness results when offending public employees attempt to explain-away a proven fact: many things about this and other such public projects are wrongly, if not illegally, done. When such wrong is discovered, the cover-up results and deepens over time.
The 3132 Extension project is perfect example: how were two – not one, two! – subdivisions built in the Extension’s preferred corridor route since 2000, using up the only undeveloped land available for the final Extension leg to the Port? We still do not know.
Under the public participation guidelines of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is this statement suggesting what should occur:
“A good indicator of an effective public involvement process is a well informed public which feels it has opportunities to contribute input into transportation decision-making processes through a broad array of involvement opportunities at all stages of decision-making. In contrast, an ineffective process is one that relies on one or two public meetings or hearings to obtain input immediately prior to decision-making on developed draft plans and programs.”
We will see how different this process is from the toxic and rigged version used in the Stage 0 study and I-49 hearings / meetings.
Flournoy-Lucas to the Leonard Road
As recorded in the BKI Meeting Report and further detailed in the transcription,
… the extension would have to be implemented in phases. This underscores the need for improvements in the Leonard Rd. corridor … as it would need to accommodate higher traffic volumes for a few years until the entire extension is complete.”
Not only is this discussion a very encouraging sign of good, old-fashioned common sense, it is also strongly suggestive of a process intended to net completion of the 3132 Extension to the Port, even if by way of a Leonard Road-to-Port initial connection. This certainly does not, to us, suggest a “no build” outcome of this study.
Quickly following this long-delayed Stage 1 study came word of a decision from U. S. District Court Judge Maurice Hicks on the Coalition’s related lawsuit. The dismissal was “without prejudice,” specifically permitting a possible later refiling.
As the Judge’s decision noted, the Coalition’s lawsuit claims must await a “final federal action,” perhaps the final corridor route determination from and by this Stage 1 study.
Finish 3132 Coalition