Ascension seeks federal road funds for La. 44 connection

The Ascension Parish Council authorized Parish President Tommy Martinez on Wednesday to apply for federal transportation dollars to build a planned road connecting the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center with La. 44.

The parish is seeking funds from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a discretionary grant program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The proposed new one-mile, four-lane road would connect South St. Landry Road to a new road already built in the nearby Edenborne development.

That road already intersects with La. 44, just south of Interstate 10.

Parish officials have eyed the connector for several years as an additional route to move traffic in and out of the parish government-owned multi-use complex.

Martinez told council members at Wednesday’s rescheduled regular council meeting that Louisiana’s congressional legislative delegation has vowed to support the parish’s mission.

“They’ve agreed to send letters of support, and some have already done so,” Martinez said of the delegates.

According to the TIGER grant program’s website, up to $600 million will be available nationwide in the 2014 fiscal year to fund projects that achieve “national infrastructure investments.”

The Ascension project is expected to cost anywhere from $12 million to $15 million, Martinez said, and will include wetland mitigation and elevated portions.

Earlier this year, Martinez had pressed the Parish Council to fund the advance planning, design and other work to have the road “shovel ready” when the parish applied for the grant.

However, initial engineering costs rose from an estimated $240,000 to $1.2 million.

Martinez later told the council the initial lower figure came before he had all the information.

“Paying $1.2 million to get $12 to $15 million still sounds like a good deal to me,” Martinez said Wednesday.

The parish president said he is confident that the project, which he described as a “work in progress,” will come to fruition. “Hopefully, the outcome will be good in October when the results come in,” he said. “If not, then we’ll have a shovel-ready project that we can find funding for through other means.”