Main Street to be widened; lane added
By James Minton
August 30, 2012
ZACHARY — A proposed highway widening project would close about 14 business driveways and alter several others in the “sweet spot” of Zachary’s commercial district, but Mayor David Amrhein said the improvements are necessary.
The state Department of Transportation and Development plans to widen La. 64, or Main Street, between McHugh Road and the La. 19 intersection. The widening project will add a center lane for traffic to make left turns into businesses.
Businesses on the section of highway and those a short distance east of McHugh generate 54 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue, Amrhein said.
“You’ve got to do it. You almost can’t make a left turn there now,” the mayor said.
Amrhein said closing or altering business access points is preferable to DOTD’s original proposal, a series of J-turn lanes.
“Nobody (business owners) liked them. They would take away all your left turns,” the mayor said.
Left turns into some businesses on the strip are now restricted by flexible barriers in the center of the four-lane highway.
A map of the proposed changes is on display at the Zachary Chamber of Commerce office, 4633 Main St., across from the City Hall Annex.
Brendan J. Rush, DOTD customer service manager, said a department representative will be at the chamber office from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 29, and again on Sept. 12, to discuss the plans. A formal presentation is not planned.
Interested persons may drop by at any time during the sessions, he said.
Rush said the changes are based “on what we know,” but business owners may have other suggestions based on such factors as the type of trucks that make deliveries to them.
“We can’t gauge everything by watching and counting cars,” he said.
For planning purposes, the chamber is asking interested residents or business people to register online if they plan to attend, spokeswoman Charmaine Efferson said.
To register, click on “events and resources” on the chamber’s website home page, http://www.zacharychamber.com.
Rush said the construction cost for the project is estimated at less than $4.5 million, with bids scheduled to be accepted in mid-2013.
DOTD has acquired 16 of the needed 24 right-of-way parcels, and the department expects to obtain all of them by the end of September, Rush said.
The driveways scheduled to be closed are on properties with more than one entrance or exit, including the Circle K convenience store at the intersection of La. 64 and La. 19, the McDonald’s restaurant, Church’s Fried Chicken restaurant, Hancock Bank, a strip mall fronting the Walmart store, the post office and Zachary Manor nursing home.
In some cases, driveways will be widened to allow traffic to both enter and exit at one location, according to the map on display.
Amrhein said he has contacted DOTD about the city eventually taking over La. 64 between Old Scenic Highway (La. 964) and Plank Road, which includes the project area. Under a DOTD program, the agency would bring the road up to current standards and pay the city a lump sum for agreeing to maintain the highway.
Amrhein said DOTD has not set the amount it would pay Zachary, but the city plans to use the money to build a boulevard east from La. 19 north of the La. 64-19 intersection. The boulevard would curve south and intersect La. 64 at McHugh Road, he said.
The city also would extend a short street off La. 64 between a Murphy Express store and Raising Cane’s restaurant to intersect with the boulevard.
The boulevard would open additional areas to commercial development, he said.