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Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

Walter O. Bigby Carriage Way


Construction project planned to ease Bossier traffic woes

A$45-million construction project to alleviate traffic congestion in Bossier City continues to advance.

It will extend the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway north to Benton Road. Bossier City Councilman Tommy Harvey said the new road will lighten the load on Benton Road.

“Benton Road will see a significant reduction in traffic from the Walter Bigby intersection south to Interstate 20,” Harvey said.

Bossier City Engineer Mark Hudson said the first step in the process was buying the necessary rights of way for the project.

“We had 41 properties we needed to acquire,” Hudson said. “We’ve closed on 21 of them. So, we are about halfway there. The biggest landowner is Union Pacific Rail. We should close on that within about 30 days. When we can do that, it’s going to start to come together.”

Hudson said the plans for the project originally were due last fall. But the scope of the project has grown so much that he granted the designers more time to complete the plans. Hudson said some additional work was added on Shed Road that was not part of the original project, for example. Union Pacific Rail is giving Bossier City a permit to build a bridge over its railroad tracks. Hudson said the review time for that permit put them behind schedule. Plans to extend Citizens Bank Drive also caused some aspects of the project to be redesigned, Hudson said.

“The design is really not on the critical path to getting finished,” he said. “So, I gave them until this spring to finish the plans.”

The construction of the also requires four separate permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hudson said he has two of the permits in hand, and the other two are being processed. One of the outstanding permits is for a drainage structure to direct water to the Red River. The other outstanding permit is for building a roundabout at Shed Road, which is near one of the Corps’ levees. Hudson does not anticipate any delays in securing those permits.

“What that means is that in the spring I will have my plans done, sitting on the shelf,” Hudson said. “We need to complete the remainder of the right of way. Once that’s done, we will have to relocate utilities. That’s something people forget about. We’re going to have to relocate some SWEPCO lines, some CenterPoint lines and some cable TV fiber. Everybody will have some stuff to get out of the way.

“Once that’s done, we can bid and build it. It’s within the realm of possibility that we can bid this thing in the spring or summer of 2020.”

Hudson said some of the SWEPCO lines that need to be moved are transmission lines. Those are larger and more difficult to move than the local distribution lines.

The route for Walter O. Bigby Carriage Way will begin with East Texas Street (U.S. Hwy. 80) in downtown Bossier City. It then will progress along Old Benton Road, Hamilton Road, cross abandoned Union Pacific railway property and connect to Benton Road near Citizens Bank Drive. The route includes three roundabouts – at Texas Street, Hamilton Road and Shed Road – to allow drivers to get on and off the extension.

Hudson said he does not anticipate construction for this project to inconvenience motorists a great deal. But he said drivers would appreciate the changes when the project is finished.

“It’s going to be a huge improvement,” he said. “It will eliminate the issues with Union Pacific at Gray Crossing at Highway 80. Union Pacific dissects the city east and west. KCS dissects the city north and south. We built the Benton Road overpass a few years ago. That gets you over the KCS railroad. This project will get motorists up and over Union Pacific railroad, which clogs up the city probably a half-dozen times a day. By giving the public a way of getting from north of town to south of town without ever being held up at a train track is huge.”

Harvey represents Bossier City Council District 5, where the project will take place. He said he agrees with Hudson’s assessment.

“A lot of this road is through an area that is not developed,” Harvey said. “From Benton Road, it goes directly west over the railroad tracks, between businesses and an empty field. It will run parallel to the railroad track until it hits Old Benton Road. I don’t see traffic being stopped. Where the impact may felt the most is along Highway 80. But since it’s a state road, it will remain open. There will always be at least two lanes. I don’t think it will have the same impact traffic and businesses have seen with Shed Road.”

Hudson said groundbreaking for the project could take place two months after the city opens the bid. He estimated construction would be a 27-month project.

“Like all great big projects, it moves slow,” Hudson said. “We work on it almost daily. It sort of lumbers along. The next big milestone will be delivery of the plans this spring.”

– Scott “Scooter” Anderson


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