GONZALES — Ascension Parish administrators gave the public a first look Tuesday night at a proposed far-reaching project to improve the parish’s transportation infrastructure.
One of multiple funding sources for the proposed $140 million program to enhance numerous roadways in unincorporated areas of the parish would be a proposed half-cent tax that would not apply to the municipalities of Gonzales, Donaldsonville and Sorrento, officials said.
“This is going to bring a variety of improvements that will provide benefits for residents and businesses,” Parish President Tommy Martinez said during a meeting of the Parish Council’s Transportation Committee.
The proposed tax, if voters in unincorporated areas of the parish approve, would generate about $8 million per year, Martinez said, with the possibility of bonding up to $80 million for road improvements.
“We want to dedicate the tax to specific projects that we’re looking at so the money will be assured to be spent on projects that the people vote on,” he said.
The four major categories of improvements address the Airline Highway corridor, the regional corridor, local intersection improvements and bridge rehabilitation, Martinez said.
Martinez said public input would help decide specific projects chosen for the program.
Councilman Todd Lambert said he felt that the sales tax project should not focus heavily on state highways, but should mainly address parish roadways.
Martinez stressed that the parish should look at which roads carry the most traffic, whether state- or parish-maintained.
He also suggested that much of the funding may go toward adding turn lanes to busy intersections.
Another project in addition to the sales tax plan would have the parish possibly take over maintenance of some state highways, excluding major arteries, after DOTD makes improvements to the roads.
As funds become available to DOTD over time, Martinez said, the parish would transfer those roads back to the state.
“The state still wants to maintain those major highways,” Martinez said.
Review engineer Michael Songy, of CSRS, said the proposed sales tax revenue and state funds could be used to match vital federal funding for larger road projects.
“Getting those federal funds back to the local area is very important,” Councilman Randy Clouatre said. “There aren’t a lot of ways to do that.”
Two open house events to obtain public input for the program are scheduled for May 16 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center and May 22 at Oak Grove Primary School, Martinez said. Both events begin at 4:30 p.m.