“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. I’m sure there is going to be people who are not for it, but again, the roads are not going to get better.” Tommy martinez, Ascension Parish president
GONZALES — Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said he hopes the Parish Council acts in June to put on the Nov. 6 election ballot a wide-ranging roads-improvement plan to be funded by a proposed half-cent sales tax increase.
The parish, now collecting public comments on Ascension’s future road needs, has scheduled the second of two meetings for 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Oak Grove Primary School, 17550 Old Jefferson Highway, Prairieville.
Martinez said the parish has offered some of its own ideas, but wants to hear from parish residents and other interested parties so it can decide how best to improve the road system.
Parish engineers and state and local officials plan to attend Tuesday’s meeting to answer questions, parish officials said in a news release Friday.
A Wednesday meeting on the proposal at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center was well attended, but not as many people as Martinez would have liked actually showed up, he said.
“Hopefully, we’ll get more at Oak Grove,” Martinez said.
The plan’s proposed half-cent sales tax would generate about $8 million per year, enabling the parish to issue up to $80 million in revenue bonds to pay for road work.
Martinez has said the new road dollars would be dedicated to specific projects, which the parish is now trying to determine.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. I’m sure there is going to be people who are not for it, but again, the roads are not going to get better,” he said.
Martinez said the parish is considering a lot of work at major intersections, including installation of left-turn lanes to prevent backups.
Martinez said the proposed half-cent sales tax needs to be ready by a July 18 deadline to go before the State Bond Commission in August for approval before it can appear on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
The sales tax would apply only in unincorporated parts of the parish, excluding the municipalities of Gonzales, Donaldsonville and Sorrento.
Though not on the ballot, parish officials also are working with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development on another plan to gradually take over state highways in the parish.
Martinez said the plan calls for the state to gradually upgrade and turn over to the parish some of the state roads now crisscrossing the parish. Then, the state would be expected to provide the parish with 40-year funding to maintain its former roads.
Martinez has said the intent is for the parish to take over more locally used highways, not the parish’s key thoroughfares.
They, too, are largely state or federal highways, such as La. 42 and Airline Highway, also known as U.S. 61.
The state funding could total about $65 million spread out over several years and be spent as particular projects are proposed, he said.
“We’re not going to go in and take 110 miles of state roads. It’s going to be over a period of time,” Martinez said.