DOTD proposes to close intersection of La. 1148 and La. 1

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

The Iberville Parish Council on Tuesdy requested the state highway department to take a traffic count before closing the railroad crossing and intersection of La.  1148 (Choctaw Road) at La. 1.

Councilman Terry J. Bradford, who represents the area, reported Friday he had called state Rep. Karen St. Germain and Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso about setting up a meeting to half the State Department of Transportation and Development's (DOTD's) plans to close the intersection.

“I don't think DOTD realized how many people live back there,” Bradford said. He said a DOTD employee he talked to ssaid some 4,000 vehicles cross at the intersection every day.

“I feel confident we're going to get it stopped,” Bradford said, citing St. Germain's membership on a key highway committee.

DOTDengineer Charles "Trey" Jesclard III told the Parish Council Tuesday he understood concerns about 1148 being used as a hurricane evacuation route, but that DOTD plans to close the intersection because of safety concerns.

In recent years, the parish built Enterprise Boulevard as a second route out of the Choctaw area in the event La. 1 was blocked during a chemical or other disaster. Nearby, the parish added Industrial Boulevard to serve an area of industrial warehouses.

Using nearby intersections would cost motorists a little time during a hurricane evacuation, Jesclard argued, but could avert "a real disaster" at the intersection in heavy hurricane traffic.

La. 1 near the intersection over the past eight years, according to an information sheet Jesclard gave the council.

Federal railroad crossing standards call for one crossing per mile in a "rural setting," he said. Choctaw area residents would be able to use Industrial Boulevard, about three-tenths of a mile away to access La. 1.

 "We're looking at it from a safety standpoint, not a railroad standpoint," the engineer said. "We don't believe we're making people go that far out of their way."

He said further that the angle at which 1148 enters La. 1 makes the intersection awkward.

"The state is proposing to take out the northbound turn lane there," Jesclard said. "...That is the proposal we're planning on developing through our state highway plans and our federal plans."

Councilman Terry J. Bradford of Plaquemine, who represents the area, said there are two subdivisions and two trailer parks in that area, while Councilman Salaris Butler of  Seymourville questioned the use of Industrial Boulevard for residential traffic.

"There's a lot of truck traffic on Industrial Boulevard to warehouses [in the area]," Butler said. "I really don't see that as a route."

"Not many cars use the boulevard," added Councilman Louis "Pete" Kelley Jr. of Plaquemine. "Most go to 1148."

Butch Martinez, a former school board member from the area, asked the Parish Council at least to ask the state for a traffic study before the intersection is closed.

"Give us some support," Martinez said. "Once it's closed, it's not going to be opened a gain...To me it's just trading safety issues."

He said expects to have 70 to 90 trucks on Industrial Boulevard serving a new packaging facility there.

"Will those trucks also wanting to travel 1148," Jesclard asked. "If this happens, you're going to many near misses, if not some big-time crashes."

In the end, the council backed Bradford's motion to ask for a traffic study before DOTD takes any action.