Growth continues to come to Livingston Parish.
Home sales in 2019 surpassed the 2,000 mark, and in 2020 the real estate market blew the top off with over 2,400 detached, single-family properties were transferred in Livingston Parish.
While this is good for the local market, as it shows that certain things that make Livingston attractive - law enforcement, schools, and affordable real estate - remain in place, it has put a strain on local infrastructure, including roads.
In several cases, these roads fall under the parish’s jurisdiction and are their responsibility to maintain and keep up to standard.
However, parish funding in many cases has not been able to keep up with that level of growth. Roughly $4.5 million in debt strapped to the road program funding mechanism - part sales tax and part property tax - brings the total available funds for road overlay down to just shy of $2 million a year.
The parish skipped the road overlay program in 2017 to capture grant funds in 2018 and 2019 to expand their outlay budget for those two years, which paid dividends when the parish was able to utilize almost $20 million.
Still, those numbers come up short when looking at roads which have been inundated with residential growth in the past 10-15 years. Having to perform certain actions on the road, such as widening, combined usually with the length of the road makes the cost unaffordable for the parish.
Enter the MPO list, or Metropolitan Planning Organization. The Baton Rouge area is run through the Capital Regional Planning Commission (CRPC) who collect proposals for infrastructure projects in the capital region and grade them for potential funding.
Two roads have already gone through the MPO program, both in Denham Springs. Wax Road and Plantation Road, both just south of the city, received overlay treatment as well as minor widening.
Two more roads are currently going through the program, which includes widening, subsurface drainage, and road overlay. Those are Buddy Ellis Road and Dunn Road, respectively, although both projects had local residents scratching their heads for months as start times were slow.
Chad Bacas of Forte and Tablada, the engineer of record for MPOs for the parish, provided the News with a timeline for MPO projects, which have three stages:
- Project has state funds available and engineer is designing
- Project design is complete and bids are complete
- DOTD has accepted the project
Now, the Buddy Ellis is 'nearing completion,' according to Bacas. The final level of overlay remains, as well as some ditch cleaning. Dunn Road is still in 'early phases of drainage work,' Bacas said, which must be completed before the road overlay can begin.
Forrest Delatte was part of the original trio, which is slated to begin after Buddy Ellis is completed. Bacas said the state has selected a contractor for the work, but the time frame has still not been set.
Other MPO projects that are currently underway or recently completed:
- Linder Road bridge replacement
- Sims Road overlay
- Amite Church Road overlay
Now, the parish council is looking to the future. At their meeting last Thursday, the council unanimously agreed to a resolution seeking approval from the MPO for two roads and a pet project. The two roads are Linder and Brown Road, which would receive the widening, overlay, and subsurface drainage.
Both of those projects would take roughly two years to complete from start-to-finish, much like Buddy Ellis and Dunn Road, but would be staggered over the next four years to avoid 'construction overload.'
The pet project is Juban Road North Extension.
In 2019, the parish council established a Master Plan Committee to try and reboot things like parishwide drainage, zoning, and infrastructure plans. A major infrastructure project that the committee determined would have 'parishwide benefit' was the Juban Road North Extension - a piece of infrastructure work which has been discussed since the mid-2000s.
But, like Cook Road Extension (from Pete's Highway to Juban Crossing) it will take state money and time. Cook Road only recently received funding and a green light from the state, but was delayed due to COVID.
The project is expected to begin in 2021.
According to Bacas, a realistic timeline is 7-10 years for Juban Road Extension, if the push starts now.
"(Juban Road North Extension) is just a different animal, it's going to take some effort and will depend on available funding from the state," Bacas explained.
None of these projects have been approved, but the council hopes their resolution will push the MPO program in the right direction for their needs.
MPO projects usually require a 10% local match for the work, which opens the door for local governments to tackle larger projects.