DOTD and City-Parish Officials Meet on Perkins Road Widening Project
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) officials met yesterday with Mayor Bobby Simpson and Fred Raiford, City of Baton Rouge; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials; representatives of local and federal elected officials; and private developers to ensure that the Perkins Road widening project will stay on schedule. The $24 million project, which calls for the widening of Perkins Road from Essen Lane to Siegen Lane, is set to be let for construction during the State’s 2006-2007 fiscal year.
The meeting was called to review the project schedule, explore means of expediting the project and establish a multidisciplinary team to facilitate the progress of the project. Mayor Simpson stressed the importance of the project for Baton Rouge in terms of its impact on $600 million worth of planned economic development for the area. Private developers in attendance at the meeting included Tommy Spinosa of JTS Enterprises and Richard Carmouche, a local builder. Fred Raiford, Director of Public Works for the city, indicated that the expansion of Perkins Road was necessary to ease increased traffic congestion associated with the planned area developments.
Jim Dousay, DOTD’s Real Estate Administrator, indicated that DOTD has taken steps to expedite the appraisal and negotiation process. Right-of-way maps are complete and DOTD has already hired contract appraisers who will immediately begin property appraisal work. Dousay will also meet with contracted property negotiators and expressed DOTD’s commitment to expediting this process. Funds are in place to begin the right-of-way acquisition.
Also on tap for the fiscal year that begins July 1 are agreements with utility companies to relocate their facilities. Mayor Simpson plans to meet with Entergy, BellSouth and other involved utility companies to ensure that there are no delays in this phase of the project. DOTD also reported that it has cleared the environmental process and will shortly submit its application for the required wetlands permit to the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The “clearing and grubbing” contract is scheduled for letting in fiscal year 2005-2006, but DOTD’s Road Design Administrator, Kent Israel, assured the group that DOTD will move the schedule up if right-of-way and utility relocation efforts are completed sooner than currently scheduled.
Although federal funds initially earmarked for the project were moved by Congress to the Juban Road/ I-12 interchange project, Congressman Richard Baker has indicated that funds will be restored to the Perkins Road project before construction begins. Federal Highway Administrator William A. Sussmann indicated that his agency will work with DOTD and the city to ensure that the project proceeds on schedule. Should the receipt of necessary federal funds be delayed, FHWA will consider innovative financing options, such as an “advance-construction” funding method.
DOTD Project Manager Ann Wills indicated that monthly status meetings will be held with all project team members to closely monitor progress and keep the project on schedule.