I-49 connector options narrowed, yet delays still plague decision

I-49 connector options narrowed, yet delays still plague decision
A closer look at Swepco Park impacted by nearly all 4 downtown options (map: NLCOG)
A closer look at Swepco Park impacted by nearly all 4 downtown options (map: NLCOG)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Hopes for progress Friday in plans to extend of I-49 through Shreveport were quickly dashed before the morning was over.

"We had a resolution pretty much drafted to support whatever those options were to move forward," says Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments executive director Kent Rogers.

"It's frustrating for everybody involved," added Rogers, lamenting the latest delay to narrow down the options of how to close the gap of I-49 between I-20 and the I-220 loop on the north side of Shreveport from 5 down to 2.

So what is behind Friday's 11th-hour delay?

"Because of issues that our federal partners have brought up," explains Rogers.

Engineering firm Providence, hired to examine all the environmental and economic pros and cons of the options, was prepared to select the 2 options that border either side of Allen Avenue through the Allendale neighborhood.  However, it was announced Friday morning that various governmental agencies are requiring last-second information, delaying NLCOG's announcement.

In a nutshell, the way the process is supposed to work is that NLCOG would select 5 options to consider when it comes to finishing I-49 through Shreveport. Four of them involved going through either the Allendale or Ledbetter neighborhoods just west of downtown Shreveport. The 5th option, which was added at a previous 11th hour deadline, was to loop it around the west side of town using the existing path used for Louisiana Highway 3132 and the I-220 loop.

Public meetings were held this past January detailing the options. Then the engineering firm, Providence, was to present what they consider to be the best two options.

"It's Baton Rouge. It's the federal partners and federal agencies," says Rogers.

"Just the time frame for them to review, for them to go over documents. Every time we turn around, those time frames seem to grow and grow and grow."

It could be the beginning of next year before Providence will officially be able to present the final 2 options to NLCOG.

One of the issues the governmental partners asked Providence to provide more information on is Swepco Park, a nearly abandoned park on the far north side of Allendale that would be impacted by many of the proposed options.

"They've removed all the playground equipment and basketball courts," explains Rogers, noting that little is left of the park but a large green grassy area.

"The entire housing complex down here," says Rogers, as he points on a map to the newly-constructed Renaissance at Allendale apartment complex built in the path of at least 3 of the options.

"It could have been completely redone at 20 times the size and it would still be easier to do that than it would be to go through a 20-by-20 piece of property that's classified as a park."

In previous KSLA News 12 reports, we cited a high number of homes built by non profits Community Renewal and The Fuller Center for Housing would be impacted by 2 or more of the remaining options. Fuller Center executive director Lee Jeter expressed his frustration with the city of Shreveport over giving them the land to build affordable housing a handful of years ago, only to find out they may now be in the bulls eye.

"Why did we do this?" questioned Jeter.  "Why make investments? Why did you ever give us the land if you're going to take it away from us10 years later?"

However, Rogers says none of the homes built by those 2 organizations would be eliminated by either of the 2 options Providence was expected to present at Friday morning's meeting.

Proponents for the inner city connector through Shreveport have repeatedly cited the continued decline in population and the growing number of vacant or abandoned homes throughout Allendale.  Opponents to the inner city connector have pushed for the 'Loop It' option, which was not expected to be one of Providence's choices according to Rogers.

"Both sides of the argument did say (to) stick to the process, the guidelines and rules, but we need to move this thing down the road,"

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