ST. TAMMANY- Parts of the metro area are busting at the seams with growth and the roadways are showing it.
The transportation "to-do" list for St. Tammany was laid out in a meeting on Tuesday. It included more than a dozen road construction projects either happening now, happening soon or need to be happening across the parish.
The list, with current status projections, is below:
-Highway 21/Tyler Street Widening, set to be complete by Sept. 29
-Highway 11 road elevation from Spartan Drive to Oak Harbor Drive, set to be complete by end of 2017
-Bogue Falaya Bridge expansion and Highway 190 widening with roundabouts in Covington, Phase 1 of 3 underway
-Highway 434 widening, public meeting scheduled this month
-Highway 41 Spur Bridge in Pearl River, let for bid June 2019
-I-12 widening between Highway 21 and 190 (Phase 1), let for bid July 2019
-Sidewalk/pedestrian friendly improvements on Gause Boulevard from Front St. to 14th, let for bid in July 2019
-I-12 to Bush (LA 3241), in wetland mitigation now, first phase (Hwy 36 to Hwy 435) let for bid in 2122
-1088 Roundabouts (8) between Highway 59 and I-12
"We are growing so fast and to keep up with that growth it really does take a lot," St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said.
The state says it's going to take a lot more from the public to convert plans from paper to pavement. The reason-- it has $13.4 billion in unmet needs and only has a $600 million annual Capital Outlay budget, requiring money-match help from the federal government often.
"The most important thing I will tell folks is the federal government is looking for states to provide more help for themselves to address these big transportation needs," said Dr. Shawn Wilson, DOTD Secretary. "Unfortunately, we're going to have to turn to parishes and say the same thing, and parishes are going to have to turn to communities and say the same thing-- if you want more value, you're going to need to put more in."
Suggestions being floated state-wide are revenue generators like revisiting the amounts of the dedicated gas tax and permit fees, both set in the 80's, as well as the creation of more toll roads and bridges.
Locally, St. Tammany voters allow the parish to move its projects up in priority due to a two-cent sales tax dedicated to roads and drainage. Some of those dollars are used to offer the state a way to match and snag federal money.
Some say they'd support some of those funding solutions with a catch.
"It's kind of like the boy who cried wolf. You keep asking, you keep getting, but there's nothing being done, said driver Jean Schafer, "I think you would probably have a lot of people on board with that if they really felt that it would happen."
On the same topic, the parish is holding a public meeting this week to reveal its "Major Streets" plan. These will be proposed projects that include revamping some roads, and creating new roads, along with new intersections and connectors. The meeting will take place at St. Tammany Council Chambers on Koop Drive in Mandeville at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21.