State officials take issue with corps' choice for Northshore road project

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 12, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 12 at 10:42 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

ST. TAMMANY, La. -- Movement on a Northshore road project on hold for decades has some parish leaders claiming it's more of a step back for them.

The project, Highway 3241 or I-12 to Bush, which would cross through Washington and St. Tammany parishes, had several route options tossed around for years.

Thursday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it is choosing Route Q to approve for a permit because it is the least environmentally damaging.

That news struck a nerve with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, as well as parish leaders, because it's not what anyone else wanted.

"I don't think they want it built. I think they're finding reasons not to build it, frankly, and it's a very important road to us," said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.

Washington Parish President Richard Thomas said, "Right now, point of Washington Parish is, we'll take anything we can get."

The route recommended is a longer one that preferred. It's an almost 20-mile stretch starting at the intersection of Highways 21 and 41 in Bush and ending up connected to LA 434 in the Lacombe area.

For people who wanted another plan, they say this one doesn't provide for traffic alleviation in Washington Parish, and causes new problems in St. Tammany.

"Q causes us quite a few problems, the major one, is the route right now, is smack dab over the top of the new coroner's building," Brister said.

"We considered all the public comments in our evaluation and in the end we determined that alternative Q was the least damaging, practical alternative," said Pete Serio, chief of the Regulatory Branch at the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The recommendation comes with strings attached as well, including requiring the state to get a water quality certification and put together a mitigation plan that has to be approved by several departments before a permit is issued to DOTD to start the project.

The state and the Army Corps of Engineers both say they are willing to work on realigning the route to address any issues, like the coroner's building overlap, but that will add time to the already long wait to see some action get underway.

 

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