By Carolyn Roy
A closed meeting to discuss a new bridge in Natchitoches has Williams Avenue homeowners disappointed they weren’t invited. Bray Williams, a resident who had been a general spokesperson for those opposing a temporary bridge from Highland Park to Williams Avenue, said he learned of a meeting held Oct. 12 at the Natchitoches Arts Center conducted by Fenstermaker, the company conducting the environmental impact study of the Church Street Bridge project.
Several elected officials, City department heads and members of the Historic District Commission were invited. “It seems odd to me that no one invited the public to inform us of the procedure. Maybe it would have been a good idea to inform all the stakeholders. Why not include the people who are most concerned—the people who will fund the project?” Williams said. In a telephone interview Wednesday, Mayor Lee Posey said he attended the meeting called by Fenstermaker and it was just a meeting to provide information and update the City and La. DOTD on its progress.
“There’s nothing going on behind the scenes. I’m asking the public to hold tight. When it plays out, it will be a good thing,” Posey said. The Mayor said there will be at least two public meetings to update residents on the process. Williams still has grave concerns about the possibility about of the Highland Park Bridge based on sketches he obtained from the meeting, one of which depicted the bridge in that location. Williams said he believes the sketch is an indication that the bridge is still under consideration.
The sketches distributed at the meeting depict a bridge from Highland Park Drive to Williams Ave.; one aligning the Church Street Bridge with St. Clair; and a temporary bridge from Touline to Williams Avenue. Williams and other Williams Avenue residents have been against the “temporary bridge” not only because of traffic and safety issues but also the concern it will remain permanently. Williams provided other information he obtained from the meeting: •Maps of the project study area, the current Church Street Bridge •Potential realignment of the Church Street Bridge that would line up with St. Claire •Potential temporary bridge at Touline Street that would connect Front Street with Williams Avenue •Section drawing of the temporary bridge and proposed Church Street Bridge with middle turn lane •Potential temporary bridge at 1128 Williams Avenue that would connect Highland Park and Washington with Williams Avenue •18 views/comments from political/administrative agencies •41 views/comments from residents of Natchitoches •Touline Street temporary bridge will not cause damage to any of the new structures being built on the riverbank •Touline Street temporary bridge could be constructed in time frame that will not impact Christmas season nor restrict traffic during that time •Touline Street temporary bridge would not impact pumping station on east side of Cane River •Touline Street temporary bridge would prevent auto traffic from entering the riverbank area on the south end while it is in place •Touline Street temporary bridge would result in cutting down magnolia tree on east side of Cane River Williams says that from the information he received, the new Cane River Bridge will be three lanes. “But since I was not invited to the meeting, I can’t be sure,” Williams said. After several meetings and protests from Williams Avenue residents, the City Council unanimously voted against Resolution 104 last December. That resolution was to authorize starting the process to seek State funding for the Highland Park bridge. It was the Williams Avenue residents’ belief that the City would not pursue a bridge at that location.