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Controversial I-49 inner-city connector project in Shreveport awaiting next steps

Proposal now in the hands of Louisiana’s historic preservation division
Caddo commissioners voted 9-1 in May 2021 to go on record as supporting completion of I-49...
Caddo commissioners voted 9-1 in May 2021 to go on record as supporting completion of I-49 inner-city connector.
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:13 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 12:32 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Preliminary designs are in the works for the proposed Interstate 49 inner-city connector in Shreveport.

But the project that has stirred controversy over the years now in the hands of the state’s historic preservation office.

Kent Rogers, executive director of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments, said they’re at the stage in decision-making process where they are awaiting results of a cultural study of the area proposed for the I-49 connector.

NLCOG is the designated metropolitan planning organization for northwest Louisiana and, as such, is responsible for transportation planning in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

“Probably the biggest hurdle we’ve been going through is what’s called the cultural resource inventory, cultural resource process,” Rogers said.

The proposed route would pass through historic areas, which is why the cultural review is so important to the proposed construction of the connector. That’s part of the argument presented by Allendale Strong, a grassroots community group that opposes the project.

“[Shawn Wilson] left us no doubt that Pete Buttigieg has us in mind when he talks about stopping highways from going through Black and brown neighborhoods,” Allendale Strong spokesman John Perkins said.

In the past, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has tweeted statements like “American highways were too often built through Black neighborhoods on purpose — dividing communities, adding pollution and making pedestrians less safe.”

Plus, Rogers said details of the preliminary designs cannot be released until the review is fully approved.

District 5 Caddo Commissioner Roy Burrell, who’s been vocal in his support of the I-49 inner-city connector, says the project could help build development in the area. “I thought that I-49 was an opportunity to revitalize the community.”

Rogers said there are alternatives on the table.

“One is the build-through alternative; the second is the loop-around alternative. Of course with all projects, there’s the no-build alternative.”

Perkins said his group has an entirely different idea, one that’s pedestrian-friendly and has businesses and shops. “That’s what we were advocating for was a business boulevard.”

Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said he’s open.

“It could be an interstate when it’s done or a boulevard. Whatever it comes out to be, it’s really important for the community to get on the same page.”

Rogers said both LaDOTD and federal highway officials have approved the cultural review. Now it’s up to Louisiana’s Historic Preservation Division, which is part of the state Office of Cultural Development.

That usually takes about a month, Rogers added, but that timeline could change due to Hurricane Ida.

The plan is to have a draft environmental impact statement available for public viewing within the first quarter of next year.

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