Ascension fears traffic jams coming

GONZALES (AP) — Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez says industrial development coming to the parish could lead to “a mess” on key state highway corridors, including La. 70 and La. 30, if those roads aren’t widened soon.
Shell canceled a $20 billion gas-to-liquids plant in Ascension earlier in December, but other major expansions remain, including a $2.1 billion expansion of the CF Industries nitrogen complex in Donaldsonville.
After those projects are completed, traffic will tie up, Martinez said.
“It’s going to be a mess,” Martinez said.
His remarks came after Shell said it would not be funding engineering and design work to widen La. 70 and La. 22 to four lanes between Interstate 10 and the Sunshine Bridge as the company had previously talked about for its proposed Gulf Coast GTL project.
The gas-to-liquids complex would have been built along River Road, upstream from the Sunshine Bridge.
Kyle Plotkin, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s spokesman, said state highway officials plan to spend between $500,000 to $1 million for planning and design to have the corridor “construction ready.”
Construction funding would still be needed, Plotkin said.
“It’s an important road to do for industry and for future economic development projects,” Plotkin said.
His remarks pleased Martinez. “I’m happy they’re going to do that, have it construction ready. That gives us an opportunity to go and press to do the actual construction.”
Plotkin said the state has invested $70 million in highway improvements in Ascension since 2008.
He said the parish would have to work through the state’s capital outlay process and with the area’s legislative delegation for construction funding.
But he said the governor’s office would work with the parish on funding if legislators deem the project a high priority.
In September, when the possibility of the Shell facility was announced, Jindal’s office said the Louisiana Highway 70-Louisiana Highway 22 corridor upgrades would cost $32 million.

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