I-49 bypass proposal around Lafayette may be revived

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — An alternate route for Interstate 49 that would bypass Lafayette could be revived for discussion after being ruled out a decade ago.

State Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, and state Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, have asked the state Department of Transportation and Development to study the so-called "Teche Ridge" route, which would push I-49 to the east of Lafayette through mostly undeveloped rural areas in St. Martin Parish.

The Teche Ridge route was originally proposed by opponents of a proposed elevated interstate through Lafayette and by St. Martin Parish officials who welcomed the prospect of a new interstate running through their parish.

But officials involved in the push to complete I-49 worry that revisiting the Teche Ridge alternative could cause more delays in the project.

"My goal is to expedite this thing as soon as possible," said state Sen. Brett Allain, R-Franklin, who has been working to pull together political and business leaders for the new I-49 South Coalition. "We have waited 25 years, and we need the connector through Lafayette."

The current plan calls for an elevated highway roughly following the path of Evangeline Thruway through Lafayette.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the route in 2003 after years of public hearings, and state transportation officials have said they are preparing to begin the design work for that section, dubbed the "connector."

"I just think we ought to have something else on the table to look at," Landry said. "I look at it from a practical standpoint — less expensive, less intrusive."

It would cost more than $1 billion to complete the elevated I-49 connector in Lafayette and upgrade U.S. Highway 90 to interstate standards into Iberia Parish, according to recent estimates.

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