Juanice Gray | Editor
A grant could provide the funding to rehabilitate the Texas Street Business Corridor. The City hosted the first of two public meetings to discuss the Department of Transportation’s RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) Grant and its proposed use to fund the Natchitoches Safe Streets Revitalization Project. Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. said the project incorporates the $9 million bike and pedestrian plan approved in 2018, plus 30 streets in Districts 3 and 4. and will include bridges, roads, sidewalks and lighting.
It also proposes a roundabout at the Texas and Dixie Street intersection. The RAISE grant could fund from $1 to $25 million per project.
Director of Community Development Randy LaCaze said the area, which was the original business sector of town, is a very busy thoroughfare. He provided a rendering of the single lane roundabout that is “an early concept of what it would be.”
A $585,000 capital outlay grant would provide funding for this project and “we would have funds in hand in the middle of 2022 to start this project” according to LaCaze.
Rebecca Blankenbaker with the Cane River National Heritage Area said the street rehabilitation project would, “…meet critical needs for lighted and buttoned crosswalks” and would be the “…first step in increasing mobility in the city.”
City Engineer Nick Verrett said reduction of crash rates would be the biggest benefit of a roundabout. He said the project identified about 100 locations for specific improvements including sidewalk construction, widened or paved shoulders, crosswalks, separated bike lanes, signage and pavement markings.
(See slideshow for detailed information including the additional streets slated for pavement and sidewalk upgrades, cost outline, roundabout, a priority list and the next steps as provided by the City of Natchitoches)
He reminded the public that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” a fact reflected by the project timeline that revealed completion in early 2027. He explained that federal funds come by way of the DOTD to local entities. The estimated cost is just under $23 million. Verret said the roundabout concept has been proven to improve traffic flow and safety at an intersection that sees about 11,000 vehicles per day on Texas Street and about 2,700 vehicles per day on Dixie Street.
LaCaze said the roundabout project is one the City hopes to complete in the near future with or without the RAISE grant to improve “one of the worst intersections in the whole town.”
City grant manager and Director of Community Outreach Nicole Gray said one way to meet the requirements of the grant is by utilizing minority contractors when possible.
The next public meeting will be Wednesday, June 23 at 5 p.m. at the Ben D. Johnson Auditorium.