Technology used to help set road priorities in Ascension

Ascension Parish’s chief engineer hopes the parish can use new technology to help manage the parish’s road grid.

Chief Engineer Ben Laurie told the Ascension Parish Council on Thursday night that data obtained from a recent mapping of every road in the parish can be used to set the parish’s road priorities in the future. The parish paid $168,000 for mapping of all roads and signs in the parish, and to have that data converted into the parish’s operations management system.

The parish also will have the roads mapped again in a couple of years to have a second set of data points, Laurie said. The data will help parish officials set a three-year priority list on road repairs.

“The goal is to catch as many roads as we can before they fall off that cliff while also bringing up the ones who already have fallen off that cliff,” he said. “It’s a balancing act to get our system up to where we want it to be.”

Council Chairman Chris Loar said he was excited to hear that the administration was being progressive in its road maintenance efforts.

“I constantly hear from people saying parish government isn’t managing money effectively, is wasting money and all that,” Loar said. “I see things like this and others in the administration — it’s not only cool technology but also owning the problem by being more efficient and managing those problems. It’s cutting edge and kind of cool how you’re tackling those problems with the latest technology and data management.”

Councilman Kent Schexnaydre said the parish relying on hard data to determine a road priority lists takes the politics out of the process.

“It lets people know there is a scientific method and you can’t just call and ask for your road to be redone,” he said.

Laurie said the projections he’s using call for between $6 million and $8 million annually to preserve the parish’s road system. This fiscal year the parish had $2.5 million and projects to have around $5 million next year, he said. There’s still work that needs to be done, but Laurie said it could be improved incrementally.

“We don’t have that funding this year, but if we implement the strategy, it gets easier to move the ball over time,” he said.

The council accepted 1.84 miles of roads into the parish’s maintenance system. The decision also sparked a debate about the creation of road districts and implementation of impact fees to help the parish with future maintenance costs.

Parish President Tommy Martinez said he will present an ordinance soon that would charge developers a certain amount per lot in order to take private roads into the parish’s system.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely something,” he said.