by Elliott Stonecipher
Public meetings about the Hwy. 3132 Extension were held yesterday, one at lunchtime in Southwest Shreveport, and one at dinnertime at LSU-S. An informal survey of those who attended confirms that confusion was yet again the order of the day.
Such is the lifeblood, we participants have certainly been taught, of the arcane, stealthy and anything-but-transparent world of highway “planning” in our neck of the woods.
(Go to this article’s footnote * for directions to additional facts and history.)
These gatherings were the work of our Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), with an assist from and by the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD).
Building a Louisiana highway is one of the most awfully political, inscrutable and insanely expensive – in all ways – processes known to man, woman or child. Attending one of these “public meetings” is a taste of the mayhem. First escorted into a darkened-room for a video presentation complete with robotic narration, we then proceeded to a display of all manner of maps and and easels and other devices, ordered and hastened to fill out this sheet or form or card, then directed to put them on or into this box or table.
Emphasis here is on making sure no questions of any kind somehow escape some silly taxpayer’s brain and mouth, no matter how accidentally. In fact, the lengths to which these people go to completely stomp-out citizen participation make these confabs a raw and open assault on our rights.
When we were done, mass rolling of eyes and shaking of heads over until the next time, one thing of real importance had occurred. The would-be Esplanade development of Bossier City Councilman Tim Larkin was additionally protected, at the expense of some homeowners in the Twelve Oaks subdivision in Shreveport. (I am a Twelve Oaks resident, but my home is not specifically at risk.)
Back during the “Stage 0 Feasibility Study” – yesterday’s gatherings are a part of the “Stage 1 Study” – an unknown, decent and honest soul in government leaked to us certain official documents. They were route options for the highway, and progressed deeply into Tim Larkin’s planned Esplanade residential development. They thereby protected, on the opposite side, existing homes in Twelve Oaks.
Following that lead, we also found an email from the DOTD project engineer in which she recommended to her boss at DOTD that this leaked route option be chosen, regardless that it effectively k.o.-ed the planned Esplanade development.
The broader point, of course, was and is that existing homeowners’ property and houses would have thereby been protected at the expense of the only remaining undeveloped land available for the 3132 Extension.
Yesterday, even with use of a written question by Finish 3132 Coalition attorney Whitney Pesnell, NLCOG and DOTD danced the Him-Haw, clearly communicating in their non-answers that the route most damaging to Larkin’s development had fallen into their File 13.
Much more detail on these route options and their importance is presented in this July 2014 article.
Let us stipulate for this record:
– The only economic development engine of note for us is the Port of Caddo-Bossier.
– Therefore, the deliberate action to kill the 3132 Extension at a NLCOG meeting in April 2011 – led by Esplanade developers and former mayor Cedric Glover – was incalculably harmful to our community.
– The Port must have the Extension to stand a chance of truly restarting our economy, yet must do so without endangering the lives of thousands of people living and working on Flournoy-Lucas Road between Hwy. 3132 and Hwy. 1.
All that being said, there is a good chance that a “No Build,” the only study outcome which fully protects Esplanade, may be the result of this Stage 1 Study. Two additional meetings from and by NLCOG will occur between now and a decision, supposedly early next year.
Bringing this highway part-way back to life has been one of the most costly such community efforts in my life. Untold numbers of opponents in hiding have worked against the highway and for the developers, but tens-of-hundreds of others have pushed back against them to keep hope alive.
Never in our history has there been a better example of something we must do for the greater good.
Yet, there is no certainty whatsoever that this highway will be saved.
* My articles concerning the LA Hwy. 3132 Extension project are available, here. The first, on May 8, 2011, was written one month after the Extension was killed in a meeting of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments on April 7, 2011. A timeline of key events is here. My four years of work in trying to save the Extension to the Port of Caddo-Bossier has been without any pay, of any kind, from any source.