Road work remains on multiple projects
Road construction that has plagued motorists in the South Harrell’s Ferry and O’Neal Lane area for almost three years is likely to continue for at least 100 days — probably longer, city-parish officials told residents at St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church on Monday night.
At least 100 residents attended the forum for updates on the overlapping construction projects in the area including the South Harrell’s Ferry and O’Neal Lane projects, Millerville Road and the closure of the Woodlake Bridge.
Exasperated residents groaned and yelled at city-parish officials, expressing frustration over the slow traffic and repeated construction delays, pointing much of the blame at Barber Brothers, the project’s contractor.
“The traffic is terrible, we have to add 20 to 30 minutes for anytime we’re transporting in the area,” said Ann Wolf, who lives in Wedgewood subdivision.
City-parish officials and Green Light Plan project managers apologized for the inconveniences but promised the area will be transformed once the work is complete.
The officials cited unforeseen underground utility problems as a major cause for the delays.
DPW Director William Daniel said he understood residents’ frustration but promised that the “ends would justify the means.”
“We’ve been trying to find the most reasonable and efficient way to get the project done in the fastest amount of time,” Daniel said. “We’re not happy and we’re trying to solve the problem.”
Daniel also said he was disappointed with Barber Brothers’ performance.
“Did we want to go with this particular contractor? No the answer is that we did not,” Daniel told the residents. But he noted that the city-parish is bound by state bid laws to accept the least expensive qualified bidder.
Daniel pointed out that the city-parish is spending a significant portion of the Green Light Plan funds in the southeast part of the parish, recognizing that it’s a high growth area.
Earlier this month, traffic congestion reached a head when the city-parish stopped motorists from making left turns from O’Neal Lane on to South Harrell’s Ferry Road.
The left-turn restriction is necessary in order for crews to widen the intersection, officials said.
Residents also complained that other ongoing road construction on Millerville Road, and the state’s decision to close Woodlake Bridge, had further strained traffic problems in the area.
“Why did you do anything to this intersection (South Harrell’s Ferry and O’Neal) before you finished Millerville?” asked Ron McDaniel, who lives and works in the affected areas. “There are only two methods to getting out of this part of the parish, and that’s Millerville and O’Neal and both are jacked up.”
City-parish Traffic Engineer Ingolf Partenheimer said officials tried to avoid stopping left-turns at the intersection but traffic was backing up to Interstate 12.
Green Light Plan Project Manager Brad Ponder said O’Neal Lane will be completely closed in an area between South Harrell’s Ferry and George O’Neal Lane in about 36 days.
The news of the impending road closure elicited more groans from the audience.
“Are you kidding me? Aw, c’mon,” members of the audience yelled.
Other residents voiced concern about the further impact on traffic congestion when three nearby schools with carpool lanes open for school next week.
Partenheimer said DPW engineers and added law enforcement patrols would be monitoring the areas.
The O’Neal Lane and South Harrell’s Ferry intersection work is scheduled to be finished this fall, Ponder said, but the full project isn’t due to be completed until July 2013.
When complete, South Harrell’s Ferry will have two addition through lanes, sidewalks and a raised median from west of the Millerville intersection to east of the O’Neal Lane intersection.
O’Neal Lane will also have two addition lanes, sidewalks and a raised median from South Harrell’s Ferry Road intersection to 1,250 feet south of Interstate 12.
These projects will combine with other Green Light Plan projects to ultimately provide the city-parish with an improved north-south connection from Nicholson Drive to Hooper Road.
The Green Light Plan is a voter-approved parish road improvements plan paid for with a half-cent sales tax.