July 7, 2017
Environmental Engineering Administrator
PO Box 94245
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9245
RE: Proposed Cane River Bridge/Church Street Bridge Temporary Replacement Bridge Location, State Project #H-001271, Fed Aid Project #H-001271
Dear Ms. Ardoin, Mr. Ledoux, Mr. Craig, and Natchitoches Mayor and Councilmembers,
I am the homeowner at 1206 Williams Avenue, and probably the person who would be most affected by the proposed temporary or permanent bridge during renovation of the Church Street Bridge if you use the alternative at the Highland Park location. The only other person who would be more affected is the homeowner at the site in question, Ms. Diane Dodd, who is currently constructing a beautiful new home on the site that was previously thought available and unoccupied at 1128 Williams Avenue. The proposed preferred alternative at Highland Park Drive across the Cane River to Williams Avenue would be constructed next door to my home on Williams Avenue, and would likely require purchase of my property, the new home under construction at Ms. Dodd’s residence, as well as the property on the other side of Ms. Dodd’s home, in order to complete the required turn lanes and access to the bridge on the Williams Avenue side of the river.
I had to leave Natchitoches for several years to follow my career, and have worked for five years to be able to return to my beautiful cottage on the Cane, which I was finally able to accomplish in December. I’ve moved home, and have done extensive renovations on my home to allow me to live here for the long term, very likely into retirement, and enjoy the quiet, small town experience that living on the Cane River allows all of us. Building this bridge next door to my home would destroy both my quality of life, as well as the quality of life for all the residents of the neighborhoods that traffic will exponentially increase in if this proposed bridge location is approved. We all understand the need for repairs to the existing Church Street Bridge, but do not want the safety or quality of life in all areas on the east side/Williams side of Cane River affected for the long term.
I’ve spoken extensively with the neighbors on our side of the Cane River, who are concerned about the following issues, and hope they will be addressed in the planning process for what we know are necessary repairs to the Church Street Bridge:
1. Lack of public participation and adequate input into the proposed alternatives. We understand that there was a committee put together by the Mayor who proposed the original alternatives. However, to my knowledge, none of the residents on the east side of the River/Williams Avenue who would actually be directly affected were included on this panel/committee. We would like for LA DOT to offer extensive public participation meetings over several month period (and not during December when most residents are out of town, as the last City Council meeting on the subject was held) in order to gain perspective and ideas on alternatives prior to finalizing the alternatives that will be included in any NEPA assessment for this project. Notification for these public forums should be posted in several media, including the newspaper, Natchitoches Parish Journal, and with lighted street signs along the proposed route alternatives (including the east side of river along Williams Avenue), similar to how you gathered public input for the Hwy 6 turnaround project a few weeks ago.
2. The residents of our neighborhood have several alternate route sites to propose that should be included in any NEPA evaluation for a temporary bridge site in a thorough assessment, that would help people accessing businesses, allow traffic to bypass the Historic District, and allow access from Highway 6/Washington Street around our neighborhood to the businesses on Keyser and the Walmart area.
a. Crossing immediately adjacent to the existing Church Street Bridge, again, from city park property on both sides of the river. This is a very logical and most easily implemented site option, as it would terminate at the existing St. Claire Avenue, and make that an actual 4 way stop/light, instead of the existing 3 light/1 stop sign bizarre intersection that is the root of almost an accident each weekend. This alternative could actually solve a lot of problems at that existing intersection, and be a permanent new bridge location very easily.
b. Crossing at terminus of Touline Street, across Cane on to city park property with 3 way light on Williams. This seems also very logical, as the City owns the property on both sides of the river at this location, and no private homes would be affected.
c. Crossing farm field farther north along the Cane River from the west to east sides, and tying the link down Parish Road 507, crossing through farm field instead of residences. This would still have a very negative impact on the east side residents, but should be included in any discussion of the options/alternatives for a bridge that will very likely be permanent, per the signed request for funding from Mayor Posey for federal aid in October, 2016, stating that this would be a permanent bridge and development/economic corridor between east and west Natchitoches. There is an existing route across Cane River Lake, which I have explored myself, located at the end of Williams Avenue at Hargis Road. That area is still mostly farm/agricultural land, and would impact far fewer residents in our quiet neighborhood. Hargis Road already connects to Hwy 6. This route could be connected with roadway improvements and traffic flow planning down Parish Road 507 or the Levee Road with proper planning, and connect directly to Keyser. If the City needs to look at an alternate route across the Lake, this is the easiest and least impactful option to the residents and would have least impact on the beautiful Cane River Lake.
I purchased my home at 1206 Williams about 7 years ago. I fell in love with the neighborhood the moment I drove down the tree lined “Steel Magnolias” street and saw it. Walking through the historic 1928 cottage, and down the gently sloping tree-lined yard to Cane River Lake, I knew I was home. I, like many residents of Natchitoches, am in love with the charm of this town, the closeness of the people, and the lifestyle that historic Natchitoches provides. The area along Williams Avenue that would be directly negatively affected by the proposed bridge provide unique attributes along the Cane that are available almost no other place along the lake. The few blocks in immediate proximity to the proposed bridge location provide large lots full of mature trees, historic homes, gentle slopes in yards to access the lake that allow full use and access to the lake (which are very unusual and why there are no comparable homes to be found nearby, as most homes on Cane River Lake in town sit on steep lots with difficult lake access). My home has been valued by several realtors at between $215,000 – $225,000 because it is such a unique house, in great condition, with a large fully usable mature treed lot with access to the lake. This was before recent upgrades, and is likely worth more now. It also sits in a quiet residential area of diverse families, is a historic home outside the historic district, allows walking access to the downtown Historic District activities, and is a place where you can walk your dog, ride a bike, or just read a book listening to the breeze through the large pecans, oaks, and magnolias on a given afternoon.
I bought this home with the long term plan to retire in Natchitoches, to both be near friends and to enjoy the quiet lifestyle my current neighborhood provides. I envision being surrounded by nieces, nephews, friends and family relaxing in my beautiful yard, playing in Cane River Lake.
The proposed bridge would have the following negative impacts on both my home and the surrounding neighborhood:
1. It would require cutting down many of the mature shade trees that line my backyard, and would ruin the secluded views that would be overpowered by the bridge hanging over my home.
2. Impose a noisy vehicle access route and increase in traffic that would be dangerous for those walking or riding bikes in the surrounding neighborhood.
3. Increase trash thrown on our properties from the bridge (and therefore maintenance costs for the City). May also increase the incidences of homeless people using the bridge as cover and the need for police presence to patrol the neighborhood.
4. Increase vehicle accidents and likely cause fatalities due to the location in a huge curve that already has a history of at least 2 accidents where a vehicle hit the utility pole in my front yard and damaged my house in just the last 5 years. No one has noted the existing accident rate that exists at the proposed Highland Park location, and that should be assessed fully since it is located in a large curve where increased traffic and speeds will likely increase accidents.
5. It would, in short, shatter my reason and many of my neighbors’ reasons for wanting to live in this beautiful, quiet neighborhood, and ruin my property value and those of my neighbors who value the existing ambiance of our neighborhood.
6. The current bridge proposal, in the curve of the street previously mentioned, would in all likelihood require purchase of not only the house next door to mine that you are discussing currently, but several of those directly adjacent to it. The traffic safety hazards are so bad in that curve already, you would need to widen the street there to provide a turn lane, and install light signals to protect neighborhood children from oncoming traffic coming off the bridge. Costs to the City will be much larger than just the cost of purchasing the property at 1128 Williams Avenue that is being proposed right now.
There are several safety issues associated with this proposed bridge, and issues that already exist due to the proposed location in a large curve, with speed limits that are already too high and being broken by passers-through on a regular basis. If the City would like to improve safety in this area, we have several proposals to implement before any bridge should be considered that would only increase the existing safety problems in our area.
1. Need for sidewalk on at least one side of the street all the way from the intersection of Williams and Lakeshore Drive, to connect to the sidewalk at Church Street Bridge. The lack of safe walkways limits access to Historic District businesses and safe routes for children to ride/walk to school and around neighborhood.
2. Reduce the speed limits and install speed bumps along Williams Avenue, especially before and after the curve at 1206 Williams, to prevent the accidents that are already happening there regularly.
In short, there is no need to build a new bridge at a completely new location and ruin many lives and properties in an existing residential area, when there is an alternative if access to Keyser Avenue if development/access to the Walmart area is that important.
We do understand the need to repair Church Street Bridge to provide safe access for citizens across the Lake. I, and many of my neighbors, much prefer to be inconvenienced for a year or two by a little longer commute while those repairs are being made and use the existing Keyser/Pine St. Bridge instead, rather than having to live with a new bridge over our homes and impacting our lives so negatively forever. Thank you for considering these issues as you develop the proposed alternatives during the Church Street Bridge repair project.
/s/ Brandi Bradford
The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this letter. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.