LAFAYETTE — Work is expected to begin by next year on a project to put dedicated bicycle routes in the place of two of the four lanes of St. Mary Boulevard through the heart of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council this month approved an agreement for the city to do the work and be reimbursed $70,000 by the university.
The project is relatively simple — re-striping the road to carve out new lanes for bicycles — but it offers bicyclists a major new route in the heart of the city.
The new bicycle lanes will stretch along St. Mary Boulevard for just under a mile, from the intersection of St. Landry Street near the old Our Lady of Lourdes hospital to Taft Street on the other side of campus.
The general plan is to create bicycle lanes from 5 feet to 6 feet wide on both sides on the road, with a 3-foot buffer separating the bicycle lanes from the vehicle lanes, according to information from city-parish government.
The project will not only provide a new route for students but also open up a new cross-campus connection for residents in the Saint Streets and Elmhurst Park neighborhoods who want to bike to the shops and restaurants in the Oil Center, said Jerrod Olivier, vice president of the local bicycling group BikeLafayette.
Olivier also said reducing St. Mary Boulevard from four to two lanes through campus should slow down traffic a bit and make it safer for students.
“Two lanes of traffic is more than adequate,” he said.
The new bicycle lanes are part of the school’s long-range master plan and come after the completion in 2011 of the 2-mile University Common bike path that stretches from Eraste Landry Road through the University Research Park and the UL-Lafayette athletic complex, ending on Johnston Street near the edge of the main campus.
A separate project slated to begin next year will extend the University Common bike path onto the main campus, connecting near Youth Park.
“We are slowly building a more bike-friendly network,” said Tom Sammons, director of UL-Lafayette’s School of Architecture and Design and chairman of the school’s planning committee.
“You are looking at years of work, but it is just now starting to manifest itself.”
Olivier said the planned bicycle lanes along St. Mary Boulevard could play an integral role in connecting downtown Lafayette with the UL-Lafayette campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.
City-parish government has a bikeway plan that is similar to the long-range plan for conventional roadways, and the focus in recent years has been in areas in and around the central part of Lafayette.
“We have begun trying to build a network from the core out,” said Jennifer Severson, a planner with city-parish government.