Diane Dodd is worried about how the Highland Park Road Bridge Project could affect her property. She bought a piece of property at 1128 Williams from the Sibley family. Diane retired from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and moved to Natchitoches where her family is from. With deep roots in the Creole community, she said she always knew she wanted to retire on Cane River. She is currently building her dream home on Williams Avenue, despite the dark cloud looming overhead.
Unfortunately, she was unaware of the history of the lot, as it was considered as a site for a temporary bridge location.
In January, 2016 the City tried to execute an “option to purchase” for nine months for the property. When residents showed up to oppose the ordinance, the Council voted it down. In December, the Council voted down a resolution to commit funding for the Highland Park Road Bridge Project.
Brandi Bradford, a Williams Avenue resident, spoke before the City Council at its meeting June 26. Bradford lives next to the proposed site of a temporary bridge construction while Church Street Bridge is replaced. She voiced her concern over the impact the bridge would have on the safety and overall quality of life in the neighborhood.
Mayor Lee Posey said that it hasn’t yet been determined where the bridge will go and wherever it ends up, it will be a temporary bridge at best. However, he voiced his own opposition to putting a temporary bridge on the north side of the Church Street Bridge because he feels it would be detrimental to the downtown area.
According to DOTD, the environmental study process began in May and should take two years to complete. It’s so early in the process that there’s still no proposed location for a bridge, temporary or otherwise. DOTD is still a ways out from making any definitive decisions on possible bridge locations.
Alternatives haven’t officially been presented tot he public and there will be meetings to do so. It may not be for several more months or even a year from now, but the public will be given the opportunity to review proposals and give input.
Resident Bray Williams emailed a group of homeowners on Williams earlier this month concerning a “solicitation of views” letter he received from the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). DOTD is asking for the public to submit comments by July 7 (SEE DOCUMENTS BELOW).
Bradford said she feels there’s a discrepancy between DOTD project documents and what the residents are being told at Council meetings.
“If you read a Capital Outlay request from the City from October (SEE DOCUMENT BELOW) the description of the bridge is of a permanent one,” said Bradford. “All we’re asking is that the City ask DOTD to hold off on its July 7 deadline so a few alternative sites can be added to the environmental process.”
Williams said he fears that through all the talk of a temporary bridge, there’s no documentation that says as much. “I feel like this was never not intended to be a permanent bridge,” he said.”I’m against progress for progress’ sake. This seems to be a short-sighted solution.”
Council member Eddie Harrington said he doesn’t think a permanent bridge would need to remain after the Church Street bridge is expanded. What’s concerning is that, moving forward, DOTD paperwork describes the project as a permanent bridge construction.
Bradford said she’s talked to a few downtown business owners who are more concerned with the idea of a fourth bridge taking traffic away from the downtown area. She thinks more people need to be involved in discussions with DOTD to find more viable options, like building a bridge from Touline to the east side of the riverbank off of Williams Avenue.
“Putting a bridge in this location wouldn’t affect any homes and there’s already a fair amount of traffic in these areas,” she said. “This is better than bringing traffic into our residential area. We feel that because no other options are being considered, we’re being railroaded here. Otherwise this process is a waste of time and tax payer dollars in the long run. There are other options that won’t affect anyone’s property.”