West Bank ramp project on hold as DOTD officials miss meeting

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 25, 2011 at 7:50 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 29 at 5:07 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- Traffic backs up for about a half-mile as drivers try to get on and off the Westbank Expressway at Manhattan and Barataria Boulevards.

While drivers sit in gridlock, one local lawmaker says the long awaited project, designed to take pressure off the ramps, sits in bureaucratic gridlock in Baton Rouge.

"We need to know why this project is not being built," said state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero.

Connick was among the Jefferson Parish leaders who were supposed to sit down with state transportation officials this past Monday.

Connick and others wanted a status report on proposed new exit and on ramps at Peters Road.

"They canceled at the last minute," said Connick. "There's a lot of information they owe us. We're ready to go. The parish is ready to go, and they canceled because they tell us they didn't have a presentation ready."

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Chief of Staff Shawn Wilson said there was a scheduling conflict.

"We've just had a complicated time getting everyone's scheduled to accommodate, but we are committed to having the meeting and we will do that," said Wilson.

The DOTD now has "constructability" concerns about the project.

Four million dollars have already been spent on 32 designed plans.

Last month, the department ordered an independent review of the engineering work done so far.

"We expect to be getting those results back in another couple of months, if not sooner from the time that we let that contract," said Wilson.

According to DOTD, the department is still committed to building the new ramps, but no one can guarantee the project, which has already been delayed for about a decade, will finally break ground in the new year.

"Once we get the plans that the department is comfortable with, that we feel are safe and that the independent review are such that we can let the project, we absolutely will," said Wilson.

"It's just typical of what we've been finding over the last four years," said Connick. "We're going to keep pushing and pushing and see why it's not going to be built, and whoever is responsible, they have to come to the table and tell us why and the public has to know about it."

Connick hopes a new meeting will be scheduled between local leaders and DOTD before the end of the year.

 

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