In recent weeks, Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance staff has listened to many comments and observed social media statements made regarding infrastructure in our region.
As with any issue, opinions abound.
Information is what is necessary at this critical juncture though. Without facts, neither corporate entities nor business owners can make strategic decisions regarding business development, retention and expansion during the construction project.
More importantly, the general public will suffer without knowledge of traffic congestion…something we are all contending with in the Lake Charles/Sulphur/Westlake areas, and the main construction has not even started yet.
The Alliance has been keeping a watchful eye on developments pertaining to the regional interstate highway system. Like many in the public, we are concerned about the impacts of the much needed Interstate 210 redecking and amenity upgrade that is supposed to start in 2019.
Here are few reasons why:
Construction will have negative economic and transportation impacts on the Lake Charles MSA which has had four straight years of growth.
Calcasieu Parish’s $641 million hospitality industry – of which L’Auberge Casino Resort and Golden Nugget Lake Charles contribute a substantial amount in the gaming sector – could be impacted negatively due to difficulties for customers to visit the facilities and surrounding hotels, restaurants and retail businesses. Those impacts could be felt along the whole Interstate 210 corridor.
Construction will cause delays in people reporting to work at the industrial complexes on both sides of the Calcasieu River. Such a hinderance will result in excessive levels of overtime which will impact the cost of operation, employee morale, and in some cases lead to increased risk of injuries when individual workers are required to work excessive amounts of overtime.
Delivery of goods and supplies will be delayed as a result of traffic congestion on I-210 as well as I-10 will cause critical deliveries to be delayed with no way of projecting when they will occur.
Emergency response will be delayed due to traffic congestion.
Auto and truck accidents on either bridge will cause traffic to come to a standstill.
Students who live on the west side of the parish and attend McNeese State University, SOWELA Technical Community College and other private institutions will be delayed
The Alliance agrees that the construction project needs to occur. What we ask is that Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development take into consideration the logistical and economic implications of the project.
Recently, the Lake Charles City Council approved a measure stating, “A resolution to the State of Louisiana, Department of Transportation and Development, requesting the development and implementation of a plan to reduce the anticipated impact of the I-210 Prien Lake Bridge construction project, including, but not limited to, increasing the number of work hours dedicated to the project and the addition of incentives to the state contract to be awarded if the project is completed ahead of schedule.”
City officials should be applauded for sending a message to the state about concerns.
Mitigating short-term impacts that could have long-term implications is what the Alliance hopes the state considers.
Efforts are being undertaken to study the economic impact of construction. In time that information will be shared with government officials and the public.
Right now, the Alliance encourages businesses to prepare, save and market. Anyone needing business expertise and assistance prior to and when the I-210 project begins, can contact the SEED Center and talk to business information professionals with SCORE, P-TAC, the SEED Center Incubator, the Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University or staff at the Alliance/Chamber SWLA.
Excellent infrastructure is imperative to our region, state and country. What we ask is for government to respect the people and businesses who pay the taxes in order for the public structures to be built.