Parish President: Livingston to focus on roads, infrastructure in ’14

Livingston Parish will resume its road overlay program in 2014 and continue to seek funding for larger infrastructure improvements, Parish President Layton Ricks said Wednesday.

The Parish Council and administration will work more closely together this year to move the overlay program forward, Ricks said during a Livingston Parish Republican Women’s luncheon Wednesday.

“That’s what most of the people I hear from primarily are interested in,” Ricks said.

Other road projects on the horizon, he said, include connecting parkways to Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes, building frontage roads along Interstate 12, widening U.S. 190 and Juban Road, and eventually extending Juban Road north from U.S. 190 to Lockhart Road.

Plant expansions in Ascension Parish will continue to drive growth in southern Livingston Parish with an estimated 70 percent of the plants’ workforce coming from Livingston, Ricks said.

With that growth will come more residential construction, and Livingston already is seeing increases in the number of permit and planning applications, Ricks said.

“Our parish is just growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.

That growth, in turn, underscores the need for continued focus on infrastructure.

A parkway connecting the two parishes would provide not only smoother access for the commute, but also a vital evacuation route from Ascension and southern Livingston parishes to I-12, Ricks said.

A proposed Hooper Road extension, which would connect East Baton Rouge Parish to the Watson area, also is moving forward, he said. “It’s a matter of dollars,” Ricks said. “We’re encouraging (the state) to use the more northern of the two proposed routes to get it out of the heavily populated areas, and I think that’s the route they’re looking at.”

Widening U.S. 190 is also “on the radar,” Ricks said, but added, “I don’t think any of us is going to live long enough to see that happen.”

An alternative being considered is to build an elevated, toll-operated thruway, called a “bump,” he said.

The bump would allow traffic to bypass the congestion in more heavily populated areas, potentially from Airline Highway to Walker, while leaving the existing lanes undisturbed for local traffic.

“That’s a lot of money, and even though they say it’s going to be supported by a toll, that’s probably sometime down the road. But we are looking at that,” Ricks said.

In the meantime, the state has pledged about $5 million to extend Cook Road, which is off La. 16 in Denham Springs, and roughly $20 million has been pledged to widen Juban Road from I-12 to U.S. 190, Ricks said.

Both projects are vital to the Juban Crossing development, he said.

Extending Juban Road farther north to Lockhart Road is not yet on the state’s radar, Ricks said, but preliminary work such as obtaining rights of way and conducting environmental studies may move forward this year.