AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council unanimously approved the Metropolitan Transportation Draft Plan for the South Tangipahoa Urbanized Area on Monday.
It is a long-range program that spells out proposed roadway and transportation improvements throughout a wide area in southeast Louisiana over the next 30 years.
The Parish Council, along with the cities of Hammond and Ponchatoula, agreed several months ago to join the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group that will study transportation issues throughout the region and prioritize the need for new thoroughfares and improvements to existing traffic networks.
Parish Engineer Maurice Jordan said membership in the Metropolitan Planning Organization can assist the parish in receiving state and especially federal grants for roadway upgrades.
However, Jordan said, the parish will continue to do its own road projects in the southern part of Tangipahoa that is included in the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
He said Metropolitan Planning Organization planners are primarily concerned with major traffic systems.
Councilman Harry Lavine, who represents the Ponchatoula area, asked Jordan if any improvements are planned for Hoover Road east of Ponchatoula, a highway Lavine said desperately needs widening.
“At this time, I would consider Hoover Road as the most important traffic problem in the entire parish. The congestion is awful and this road must be widened,” Lavine said.
Jordan said the problems at Hoover Road, a narrow thoroughfare that connects a populated area with I-12 and several parks, is among a number of projects under study.
Councilman David Vial said the plan is projected over a 30-year period and asked how often it would be updated to meet unexpected needs that may arise in the future.
Jordan said that members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization will upgrade its long-range plan on a regular basis and will consider any related projects being put forward by the state Department of Transportation and Development.
About 10 highway projects in Tangipahoa Parish are on the MPO list for study, Jordan said.
He said the Metropolitan Planning Organization calls for thorough planning of all transportation networks in the region that it oversees.
Jordan said all projects will be reviewed on a basis of certain criteria including: present traffic congestion problems, plans for “smart growth,” economic impact, public support, environmental issues and other factors.
“Participation in the MPO is a planning tool … it will help transportation officials plan for the future and prioritize needs so that smart decisions can be made,” Jordan said.
At the same meeting, Councilman Nicky Muscarello, who earlier this year proposed a re-examination of the council’s issuing of variances to building codes, asked his fellow council members not to bring any variances before the council until the matter is resolved.
Muscarello was not at a meeting when his proposed discussion on variances was on the agenda. At that time, Council Chairman Lionel Wells appointed a committee to study the manner in which variances are granted.
In calling for a moratorium on granting variances, Muscarello said it was his understanding that variances were only to be granted in the case of emergencies.
He added requests for variances had become common and were being approved by the council even though no emergency was evident.
Wells assured Muscarello the matter would be addressed by the committee he appointed.