BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has selected revised Alternative 4 with Option 3 as the preferred construction alternative for Interstate 69 between Haughton and El Dorado, Ark.
Economic development and the protection of Bayou Dorcheat and swamp lands were the issues at the core of the decision. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries all support the decision, citing the difficulty in mitigating the impacts to recreation on Scenic Bayou Dorcheat that would result from the other alternatives.
The selected I-69 route heads north from I-20 at Haughton, northeast into Webster Parish, north of Minden, and continues in a northeasterly direction into Claiborne Parish, just southeast of Leton. From there, the route continues north toward Haynesville, crosses U.S. 79 and continues northeast into Arkansas.
This new alignment will be further refined and presented in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, expected for public distribution in late 2006.
Other alternatives under consideration were presented in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement report distributed for public and agency comment in March 2005. Although more than half of the 4,726 public comments preferred Alternative 5, the 1,296 public comments opposing Alternative 5 and its options cited key problems related to the adverse recreation and scenic effects to Bayou Dorcheat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. EPA provided similar opposition to Alternative 5.
Most public and community officials’ comments following the May public hearings reflect a strong desire to have the new interstate located close to their communities, principally for economic development.
The Haughton-to-El Dorado section of I-69 traverses a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Rural Renewal Zone, which includes all of Claiborne Parish, parts of Webster and other parishes. The preferred alternative is closer to the center of the rural renewal zone than other alternatives and is closest to Minden, the largest population and employment center in the study area.
Based on its proximity to Minden and the anticipated type of retail and warehouse/distribution development induced by the new interstate, the preferred alternative is considered to have good potential for economic development.