Bertrand Drive makeover plan envisions foot, bike traffic

The stretch of Bertrand Drive that runs just north of Johnston Street may one day be a spot for leisurely strolls, bicycle rides and sidewalk caf├ęs.

The proposed city-parish budget for next year includes $700,000 for a streetscape project that would reduce a portion of the four-lane road to two or three lanes, add sidewalks and possibly bring landscaping and street parking.

The goal is to make Bertrand between Johnston Street and College Drive a friendly corridor for foot and bike traffic and to spur business development, said Kevin Blanchard, city-parish chief development officer.

“We want it to work for the bicyclists, the walkers, the cars and the businesses in the area,” he said.

The streetscape project, assuming funding comes through, is still three to four years out, but the state Department of Transportation and Development is expected to restripe the road later this year, shifting the lines to reduce the road from four to three lanes and using the extra space for new bike lanes.

“That’s a good first step,” Blanchard said.

The long-term plan still is being developed.

Blanchard said sidewalks will definitely be part of the plan, but no decision has been made on whether the road would be three lanes or two.

Landscaping is being considered, as well as street parking to address the parking shortages of some businesses along the street, he said.

The plan calls for keeping Bertrand at four lanes where it intersects with College and Johnston.

City-Parish Councilman Andy Naquin, who represents the area, said he has some questions about how much money might be needed for the streetscape project but is generally supportive of the plan.

“Can you imagine having sidewalk dining along Bertrand Drive?” he asked.

Naquin said he envisions the area becoming a vibrant pathway between the University of Louisiana at Lafayette athletics complex and the Horse Farm, which sits near the intersection of Bertrand and Johnston and is being developed as a park.

Tim Metcalf, who owns Dean-O’s Pizza on Bertrand, said the streetscape project could be a “huge plus” for businesses along the street. He said he doesn’t have any major problems with reducing the lanes and slowing traffic down.

“There is no reason someone needs to go 45 or 50 mph there,” Metcalf said.

Blanchard said sidewalks, reduced lanes and slower traffic would allow residents to walk along Bertrand and “have a conversation and not feel like you are going to get run over.”

The four lanes on Bertrand Drive are a relic from a few decades ago when the road was a main route north from Johnston Street before College Drive was extended.

“It’s a four-lane road that carries two lanes worth of traffic,” Blanchard said.

The Bertrand streetscape project had a trial run of sorts earlier this year with a so-called “Better Block” event, where a portion of the road was temporarily reduced to two lanes then lined with potted plants that served to buffer makeshift sidewalks.

Lafayette already has experimented with retrofitting roads to be more pedestrian and bike friendly.

A project completed earlier this year shifted the stripes on St. Mary Boulevard through the UL-Lafayette campus to replace two of the four vehicle lanes on St. Mary Boulevard with bike lanes through the heart of campus.