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DDA fighting to keep $7 million for Main St. improvements

Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-14 20:30:11-04

Funding to re-vamp Main Street in Downtown Lafayette could be at risk.

The Acadiana Metropolitan Planning Organization (AMPO) which granted the funding, identified the Main St. project and several others, totaling nearly $10 million, as dormant. This means the money hasn’t been touched in more than a year.

So now, that money could instead be used elsewhere in the city. But the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which secured that funding, is taking steps to keep it where it is.

“It’s one of our main arterials into downtown. It’s a show piece from Johnston Street, it could be one of those things that completely changes the look and feel of our downtown,” said the CEO of DDA, Anita Begnaud.

In 2015, DDA secured $6.8 million to spruce up Main St. The plans include fixing the sidewalks, improving lighting and adding trees, similar to Jefferson St. today.

The project stretches from Johnston to St. John St., around the old federal courthouse and Buchanan St. garage, which will soon become a mixed use space.

“At that time we were anticipating that this would either spark the old federal court house redevelopment, or it would spark the development of the old federal courthouse. So I believe that the Main St. street-scaping project is more important today than it was 5 years ago,” said Begnaud.

But those plans have been put on hold by the AMPO. In part because of changes in leadership within DDA, but also specific engineering plans have not been finalized.

“My understanding is that there was not a solid alignment on the scope to move the project from scoping to feasibility studies to engineering. We need to define a solid scope of exactly what we’re going to do with the project. That’s going to take some engineering and some digging to figure out what utilities need to be moved, what right of way do we need to look at to widen sidewalks for instance,” said Begnaud.

Because of this, the project was not assigned a DOTD project number which they needed to use the funding. Without the project number, they were not able to go to the council and get the 20% in matching funds that the project needed to move forward.

The dormant project policy was adopted within the last year to “ensure a more proactive” use of the grant funds, according to AMPO.

In Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said he consulted with public works, planning and zoning and LUS to make a list of new projects for that money to be transferred to.

“They made the recommendations to me, they said this is what should happen. That’s what I put in the letter,” Robideaux explained during the meeting.

Councilman Bruce Conque, who’s also on the AMPO’s evaluation committee, had authored a resolution which would delay the transfer of nearly $10 million that were labeled as dormant. The resolution also had asked that Robideaux communicate with the council about future funding matters, since they did not find out about the request to transfer until after it was sent.

The resolution was ultimately withdrawn because Robideaux gave the council the list of justifications for why the projects were labeled dormant.

Conque said he ultimately just wants to see the dormant money be used in the best way that will benefit Lafayette, and for the council to have a say.

“I think the biggest point that needs to be addressed, from my point of view, is the moneys from Downtown Lafayette. We’re getting a lot of push back on that from people who are champions of Downtown Lafayette who see it as yet another step to improve Downtown Lafayette,” he said.

The DDA now plans to move forward with the engineering study and intends to ask the council for the matching funds, so that they can make their case to the evaluation committee and keep the money.

“We were very active as an entity to secure that money and so we want it to stay downtown. We think that downtown infrastructure development is of utmost importance,” said Begnaud.

Robideaux recommended the following projects to be done with the money from the Main St. Project:

– $1.5 million to the Lafayette Adaptive Signal System project.

– $1 million to lighting and upgrades on Johnston St.

– $500,000 to a Corridor Study on Coolidge St.

– $3.85 million to the University Avenue Corridor project from I-10 to Cameron Street

Below we have attached the Main St. Project overview and the list of other dormant projects that are at risk to lose funding: