ALLENDALE RESIDENTS STAND THEIR GROUND
After years of debate on the future of Interstate 49, the Allendale communIty is ready to speak up and let theIr voIce be heard
This community is known to be directly impacted pending the result of I-49.
A large majority of Allendale residents support one side urging that the best alternative is to route traffic from Arkansas into north Shreveport and merge it onto the existing Interstate 220 loop. That roadway would carry the traffic around the downtown area and remerge it with southbound interstate traffic in south Shreveport at Highway 3132 and I-49.
The other side believes the economic benefits to downtown would be bypassed if the loop route were chosen. They suggest a more direct path through some of the city’s oldest and, some assert, most historic areas.
Past Forum articles have mentioned State Rep. Roy Burrell’s stance first being against the connection through the city. Burrell later changed his opinion to favor the connector through the city after a study showed a strong economic impact.
Burrell said the study indicates the innercity connector, the route through downtown, would generate in excess of $860 million a year in revenue. Opposition to the direct route, favoring the loop around the city, has asserted that its preferred route would require no new construction, thus saving money. Burrell disagreed. (Article published in the April 16 issue of Forum).
Dr. Gary Joiner was an advocate for using an existing railroad right-of-way, which as Joiner put it would avoid concerns of going through existing neighborhoods. (Article published in the March 25, 2009 issue of Forum).
Political agendas were a majority of the focus of this plan in 2007 (as reported that year in the Jan. 17 issue of Forum).
After Hurricane Katrina, some evacuees found refuge in the Allendale community building new houses from a partnership with The Fuller Center for Housing, Shreveport- Bossier Community Renewal and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Louisiana. (Article published in June 28, 2006 issue of Forum).
As part of Forum’s continuing coverage of the I-49 debate, we take a look at the Allendale community to hear the voice of those dealing with pending plans for the corridor. Kim Mitchell, a local architect and planner, is working with the residents of Allendale to spark public interest and support of their plan to use the existing I-220 loop and not direct traffic through downtown. Mitchell and eight Allendale residents share their story.
It was a cool evening in late February 2012. I was walking up the steps to the porch of a Community Renewal International Friendship House in Allendale. Ten minutes earlier, I left my 12th floor office in downtown and drove through a nowhereland.
In 1980 almost 25,000 people lived here and shopped in adjacent downtown. During the 1980s, this place was designated a National Residential Historic District, a distinction justified by one of the country’s largest collections of “shotgun houses.” All but a handful of these treasures are gone, fallen from neglect, inadequate planning and political brinksmanship. I passed what was a neighborhood park several years ago. The park was replaced with an industrial building for movie production. The hope placed in this city give-away now seems ill-conceived. Even a small restaurant built anticipating hungry moviemakers has closed three times after local restaurateurs failed to attract enough business.
What if the politically systematic clearing of shotgun houses over 25 years was actually a strategy to remove an obstacle to the innercity connector? Are those few who reap rewards from these community-killing-roads that deceptive?
Three years ago during an Allendale neighborhood planning meeting, a resident revealed a truth that stuck with me, “Why don’t downtown leaders get it? Downtown thrived when Allendale thrived.” March 7, 2013, the state representative promoting the inner-city expressway to Blessed Sacrament Church leadership provoked a church member to comment; “We, people of color, are being pushed farther away from downtown. Look at all the property laid bare around the [Municipal] Auditorium. Nothing is there. We are not informed about what is going on. It seems we are being systematically wiped out!” Blessed Sacrament Church is in the path of the NLCOG proposed inner-city expressway.
Faith, caring, determination and sweat transformed three blocks around two CRI Friendship Houses into an Allendale Oasis of Hope. During the last eight years, abandonment gave way to 45 new homes now occupied by Hurricane Katrina evacuees and locals. CRI, The Fuller Center for Housing and Habitat for Humanity collaborated to create a special community. In addition to volunteer time, private investment of over $5 million aligned with CRI’s relational model to lift this community. Crime is down over 50 percent, educational outcomes significantly improved, Shreveport’s first community garden is thriving and a corner store will soon open. Good work deserves celebration and encouragement, not a demoralizing destructive roadway wiping it out.
The door opened. I was greeted by my friend Mike and Sherry, the Community Coordinator living in this CRI Friendship House with her family. While Mike was introducing me, Kim Mitchell, an architect and planner, a voice inside said, “Listen first.” I stood and looked around the table at 15 men and women. Their depths of feelings were apparent. Some seemed cautious toward me as though I might be one of those confusing highway planners.
Ms. Rosie spoke first: “Our lives will never be as good as they are now. We live in a neighborhood with the lowest property values in the city. They can buy us out, but it will never be enough to replace the life we have made here in Allendale.”
Rosie started the city’s first community garden at Allendale’s low point in 1999. It was her way of fighting drug dealers who took over the neighborhood and hung out at the vacant lot she targeted. Today the drug dealers are gone and the Allendale Garden of Hope and Love thrives as a symbol of Allendale’s turning point.
John, a neighbor who worked at the Fuller Center, said, “No one in the city seems to care about Allendale. If they would come and see what we have accomplished maybe they would understand Allendale should not be wasted. We believe that no neighborhood should be run over by an expressway.
“We are about to be run over by this highway and there is nothing we can do.” Louis commented while sharing his 2006 celebration picture standing in front of his new home surrounded by Sen. Mary Landrieu, Millard Fuller and 20 volunteers from across the country who invested their love and time in the “build.” Louis still corresponds with several of the volunteers.
Conversation moved around the table.
Everyone spoke. The room filled with a sense of hopelessness and betrayal. I could see minds around the table capturing images of a concrete serpent swallowing the caring investments, renewed lives and re-emerging community.
The last person around the table to speak was Dorothy, a Katrina evacuee who endured the post-Katrina horror of the Superdome with three grandchildren, one in a wheelchair. “We lived on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans before the storm. I watched an elevated expressway, Interstate 10, constructed over a thriving community. Live oak trees were cut to make way for the elevated highway. The neighborhood died. It’s no longer a place you would choose to live. I found renewed hope in Allendale. Please Lord! Not again! My family has been through enough!” Emotions yielded to questions that revealed mistrust of the powerful highway machine. “Why isn’t there open conversation about the connector proposal? Who is behind the revival of the inner-city connector? Why? Who will benefit from the wasteful public spending?” I added questions. “Why are you being told the connector will bring economic development to Allendale? The hard facts are contrary to that misinformation. Why hasn’t NLCOG informed you that in the entire history of the U.S. interstate system, every limited access freeway constructed through an inner-city neighborhood destroyed that community?” “We are not alone,” I continued. “Citizens are taking action in cities around the world threatened by destructive road projects like the one NLCOG proposes. Their success is revealing that these roads are not inevitable. There is a better way. A new trend is emerging. I called and emailed people around the country involved in successful expressway opposition. If their stories motivate you, we can meet regularly and together grow our knowledge and organize to influence better outcomes for Shreveport and Allendale.”
I shared a few stories of cities that have changed for the better by tearing down or blocking destructive inner-city limited access expressways. Cities such as Milwaukee, Syracuse, Portland, Chattanooga, New Orleans and Seattle have joined a seemingly ever growing list. Around the world, communities are improving their prosperity with new strategies to tear down high speed elevated roads through their cities and replace them with boulevards that support thriving local business. (Read a short description about one of these communities at the end of this story.)
A new spirit began to grow in the Friendship House that February night. Men and women around the table could see they don’t have to settle for being wiped out. I saw a sparkle of change in their eyes revealing readiness to open the gate to a new adventure. We agreed to keep meeting. At this writing, we have met monthly for over a year. I have come to know and love the people I met that night. We continue to grow together in ability to be part of making a better community. Our networks of support and caring for Allendale are growing across the community, state and country. Please join us.
– Kim Mitchell
A Mother’s Dream Continued
My name is Louis Brossette. I live in the Allendale community, and I am a member of our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. I have lived in Allendale most of my life. I’ve seen this neighborhood change many times, and out of all these changes, we, citizens of Shreveport, have taken what the city decided to dish out – which wasn’t much.
I lived in the shotgun houses of Allendale from a little boy until my teenage life.
We knew of larger, beautiful homes, but we thought our houses were just as big and beautiful. In the 1970s, after all the landlords had passed away, the city came in with the Beaird Foundation and other companies to “revitalize” these houses. What we thought would be better living for us, turned out to be a paint job of crazy colors on houses we thought were going to be improved.
There was no improvement, but no one tore the houses down. That paint only hid the pain our parents had to endure. When I was a child, my mother worked for two families cleaning and taking care of their homes and their children. She had to take the city trolley and several buses to get to and home from work. She would be so tired she would come in the house, and the first thing she would say is, “Honey I can’t breathe, come loose this strap.” My mother had asthma and emphysema and was too weak to unhook her own bra strap. No matter how she felt, she always provided for us six children.
Near our house, we had a garden with eggplant, mustard greens, collard greens and purple hull peas – all grown from seeds. Allendale now has its own community garden growing. My mom was a true provider. She was mother and father to us. She would be so tired I had to massage her back and feet so she could get up and cook for us six children. Sometimes I would cook for us. My mom taught us all how to cook and clean.
We lost her to lung cancer Dec. 10, 2001 (one day short of her Dec. 11 birthday). I still miss my mother so much and find comfort in continuing the tradition of our neighborhood. I find myself doing some of the same things she did. I know how hard I have to work to keep my family together and provide for them, and I remember her and how hard she worked.
I love my community and the rich values and traditions we carry forward in this place. The current NLCOG proposed inner-city connector route of I-49 through
Allendale will tear down our beautiful new homes. Limited access expressways like proposed by NLCOG should not destroy anyone’s neighborhood.
I-49 through-traffic can follow Highway 3132 and I-220, an already constructed limited access interstate. We could build an inner-city business connector as a ground level boulevard that connects to an upgraded North Market instead of bulldozing Allendale homes and community. We are outraged over NLCOG’s plans and ask you to help with this most precious decision.
– Louis Brossette
A Home Built with Love
I walked onto the foundation on which my house would be built, and I looked up toward the sky and couldn’t help but know that God was smiling down on me. I was standing on a solid foundation, and even though my house was not yet built, I already felt like I belonged here. Right here, in this spot, in Allendale. I saw the vision of a beautiful home in a foreign land, a land that I would become very familiar with, a land that I already called home.
It was seven in the morning when I clocked out at work and came to start a new journey. Once again, I walked onto my foundation, and I was overwhelmed with the people from all around the country, whom I had never met, came to me, hugging me, introducing themselves and saying, “I’m going to help you build this house.’’ Every morning from that day forward, I clocked out at work at 7 a.m. to come and build something that I would one day call my own – my home, the house that love built.
I was 24-years-old when I had an experience of a lifetime. I was able to be a part of something that would change the life and direction of my family. I look forward to sitting my grandchildren on my lap and saying, “You see this right here? This is where Millard Fuller stood beside me and nailed this board up. You see up there, on that roof? That’s where I stood and helped with putting this roof over our heads.’’
The day people like Mr. and Mrs. Fuller, Mr. Jack, Jason Beaver, Gail Grimes, Dana Pope, Ernest and Kitty Baird, just to name a few, changed my mind about people. There really are strangers who really do care about the welfare of others. I have been living in Allendale for six years now, and I’ve met a new family, and I’ve built real friendships. Yes, I’ve heard the story about Allendale many years ago, the stories about the guns, drugs and violence. But living here, right now, I see hope, love and a sense of real community. Where did those rumors go about this area being the worse area in Shreveport? Well, let me tell you. The course of Allendale’s direction has changed for the better. Lives have been touched and dreams have been birthed. Yes, this neighborhood that was once put to death has been revived and it’s not over yet.
After one week, my house was built – all four walls up by the hands of many strangers who became like my family. My daughter Mahaffey stood with me as they handed me the key to our brand new home, and we were in tears. It was the beautiful start of a new beginning. The process of seeing my home being built and being a part of it was overwhelmingly unbelievable, and now every time I sit in the quiet of my home, I look around at these four walls and say, “Look at what faith and love did!” I put blood, sweat and tears into building my home and to have someone say they are looking to destroy the area that I call home, baffles me. To think that houses built out of love and a neighborhood that has been redeemed could even be on the list of destruction just so someone could have a expedited travel is behooving. Something Mahaffey amazing Farms built selflessly offers a out wide of love, selection destroyed of for products selfish and ambitions prides is themselves of no existence on because we, educating the people their of customers. Allendale, will fight until the end. Yes, we stand together and say, “NO BUILD ON THIS SOLID FOUNDATION BUILT OUT OF LOVE!”
– Terri T. Thrash
Little by Little, a Community Restored
When I came to Shreveport with my family, we came looking for a great place to live, one that was decent and affordable. My desire was to live close to great schools and churches, and I, Rosie Chaffold, found that place right in the heart of Allendale. My family and I loved the community and the neighbors were friendly. The adults were working people, the children attended school, and the families attended church together. Everyone loved and took pride in their community. I loved, enjoyed and became closely connected to Allendale, and my family and I built a wonderful life here for about 15 years.
Things began to change. The neighborhood began to decline, and many people moved out, and many new faces moved in. The new people of the neighborhood seemed to lack pride and showed little respect toward the community and themselves. People seemed to care less about the community. As the community began to descend, so did the family structure. Many adults lacked employment, the children stopped going to school, and the churches were vacant of family. The yards, lots and streets were soiled with trash and filth. Drugs, crimes and other illegal activities became a way of life.
This once beautiful neighborhood had become one of the most dangerous and unhealthy places to live. My garage was burned, and my windows were shot out, and I had become afraid for me and my family’s lives. I asked the residents of Allendale to come together to save our community from the devastating state that it was in, but no one was willing to help. I felt sad and disappointed with the residents for the lack of care they had for their community. However, I did not give up. I felt that somehow or some way that God would bring Allendale back to its beauty and glory.
I kept praying and asking God what I could do to help Allendale return to the way it used to be. Each morning I went in my front yard and worked in my flower garden, but then one morning I began feeling sorry for my family, the condition of my community, and myself, and I started to cry. I said, “Lord, send me a miracle,” and as I started to wipe my tears, I saw some people walking on the streets. They stopped and said, “Good morning. We are from Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal, and we came to help you.” One member of the group began telling me their plans for the community, and the more he talked, the more I cried.
At first, I doubted his words being that many others had come through saying they wanted to help Allendale, but nothing changed. But then I told him that if he was willing to work with me, I was ready and willing to work with him, and we began working together. Little by little, things began to change, began to come together with Community Renewal after building trust. Community Renewal treated us with love and respect, which gave us the desire to help ourselves. We began to feel so much better about ourselves and our community.
After Community Renewal came to Allendale, I decided to start a flower and vegetable garden. The flowers would bring beauty and the vegetables would encourage the community to eat healthier. The garden was a great success to the Allendale community because it brought a sense of pride, fellowship and friendship too. Now many other communities throughout Shreveport-Bossier City have started a community garden. The Allendale Garden of Hope and Love, along with Community Renewal, has made a huge difference in the improvement of Allendale and it helped to encourage other people, businesses, and organizations to get involved and help make things even better.
The Fuller Center for Housing and Habitat for Humanity are working in the community and have built over 50 new homes for families to live in and one day own. Once again, Allendale is becoming a community of beauty, prosperity, pride and hope. I love my community, and this is where I want to stay. I thank God for sending the many people here who believe in us and were willing to help us restore our community as a whole.
– Rosie Chaffold
Don’t Kill Our Dreams
I am Phyllis Davis, and I’m a proud home Phyllis Davis owner and resident of the Allendale neighborhood. I grew up in the “bottom” of Allendale and lived with my single mother and my nine siblings. We lived in a small, one bedroom apartment. While my mother slept in the bedroom with three of my youngest siblings, the rest of us slept in the living room on blankets and the kitchen floor. I remember praying at the young age of 13, asking God to bless my family with a big house. There were even times when I wrote letters to God, asking Him to bless me with my own home when I came of age. I even went as far as dropping those letters of hope into the mailbox, believing that they would one day reach God.
I used to hear my mother’s landlord threatening to put us out every time my mother was short on her rent. I remember hearing her say, “Just give me a little more time, I will have it.” I used to feel so bad for her and I didn’t want her to know I could hear him with his threats. It was during those hard times, I knew that I wanted to own my own home one day, and I never wanted to hear another landlord again, threatening to put my family out.
I went on to have four children of my own, following in my mother’s footsteps as a single mother. I lived under the Section Eight program, housing for lower income families, for a while. I even lived in the “projects” for a while, yet wherever my family was blessed with a roof over our heads, I tried my best to make it a home even though I couldn’t call it a home of my own. As years went by, my dream finally came true. I was blessed with a home through Fuller Center for Housing and Community Renewal International. I am grateful to know that God heard and answered my prayers.
All of this came during the time my second son had taken ill and we were living in a bad neighborhood. We needed to get out and have a new start. To know that my son was able to live long enough to see my dream come true was a true blessing. Besides, that’s what he wanted for us. I can still hear him saying, “Momma, one day I’m going to buy you a big home.” I’m overjoyed he was able to move into his new bedroom instead of going back to the living conditions we were in before he went to the hospital. And even though God called him home, I’m left with the memories of him being there with me.
My son was able to see a community come together to bless families with new beginnings. He was blessed to witness beautiful people who joined together, who left their own families to lend a helping hand, to build homes for strangers. North Wheelchair Ramp, First United Methodist Church, Temple of Vision Ministries and everyone who sponsored our home, I am ever so grateful that they stepped in, giving a helping hand, and to the Fuller Center for choosing to help my family.
Dreams do come true. You have to see that our homes were built with loving hands. Now I am asking God to keep our dreams alive so that our children and grandchildren can see that dreams do come true.
– Phyllis Davis
My name is John Press. I evacuated during Hurricane Katrina to Shreveport and decided to stay. I like the people I met and decided to move to Allendale.
I don’t want to be “evacuated” again. Katrina evacuees are still trying to recover. Many of the homeowners here would not be able to recover from another displacement, especially our elderly who have embedded themselves in this community and could never afford to rebuild a home or the kind of neighborhood support system that they’ve built from scratch. How can they buy in another area of Shreveport with only the "fair market value" of their existing Allendale home?
I recently retired from the Fuller Center for Housing (Northwest Louisiana). Do you realize the Fuller Center for housing built 45 new homes in our Allendale neighborhood for evacuees and local families to purchase since December 2005? Demolishing the houses and improvements that rescued what was a blighted area would be a discredit and disservice to the Fuller Center’s investment of $4 million dollars; the volunteers from throughout the country who contributed their time and caring; the companies that donated materials; and more importantly the proud home owners who invested their sweat equity to begin new lives.
It would be an insult to the memory of founder, Millard Fuller and his director of operations, Glen Barton, if these houses were removed.
I am not opposed to I-49 but I am opposed to the current Allendale routes that place the connection in the middle of established neighborhood areas. The current NLCOG proposed routes disrupt and displace people in our neighborhood. Please support the use of existing Highway 3132 and I-220 loop as the connector route for I-49 traffic passing through our city. Help us renew Shreveport’s inner-city neighborhoods.
Thank you. John Press, LOOP-IT, LLC Committee
Sitting in the filled Superdome, looking out into the crowd, I see people throwing themselves from 30 feet above and plunging to the ground. People were committing suicide all around. All because of fear, death had taken place. I am Dorothy Wiley, a Katrina survivor. Around me I hear someone saying, “Are there any more body bags?” another person answers, “No there are not and we ordered a thousand.” At this point, my heart is racing as I try to gather together my family. And then I hear more voices around me saying, “Did you hear about the little girls who were raped and beaten in the bathroom?” I fall to a pallet beside me as fear took full control. I envisioned a man dressed in black with a top hat. He leaned over and said to me, “You don’t want to go out there. It’s worse on the outside than it is on the inside.” I watched this man as he floated down the corridor, and then vanished in midair. Instantly, fear left me, and returned to me was my faith in knowing that God will pull us through. After spending a week in the Superdome, my family and I came to Shreveport with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Devastated and psychologically traumatized, we heard about the Fuller Center for Housing out of Americus, Ga. They had come to Shreveport to build houses for the families that endured this horrible Hurricane by the name of Katrina. When I heard about this, my hope was made strong. Volunteers came from all across America to help build these houses, leaving their loved ones behind to donate their time and monies. Houses went up and the relationships we built will last forever. We brought hope to a hopeless community. Now, here I am, seven years later, facing the possibility of losing my home again. I-49 is to connect New Orleans to Kansas City, Missouri (I-49 in Louisiana runs from I-10 in Lafayette, La. to I-20 in Shreveport, La.). Construction is progressing for a 34 mile segment from loop I-220 in North Shreveport to the Arkansas state line. Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG) is tasked with connecting I-49 in south Shreveport to I-49 in north Shreveport. They are now promoting a new route through the inner city, rather than use an existing loop that already connects I-49 South to North at Shreveport. In a process to silence our voices and confuse our communities, NLCOG failed to provide the public with adequate information. They described three ‘build’ options that are all essentially the same route that will pit neighbors against each other and a fourth similar route added to avoid Housing Authority property. Their recommendations totally ignore negative impacts on citizens living adjacent to elevated expressways. Furthermore, NLCOG’s public process did not address the wetlands impacts nor provide maps for viewing wetland issues. It also omits the historic district maps that show the I-49 connector will go through a national historic district. The inner-city connector promoted by NLCOG will destroy neighborhoods. A ground level ‘I-49 Business Boulevard’ from the north terminus of existing I-49 at I-20 will better serve the local Shreveport community. This business route can revitalize neighborhoods. Instead of promoting NLCOG’s ‘build’ options for a 3.5 mile inner-city limited access expressway through a minority poverty neighborhood, cultural assets, historic assets, wetlands and natural areas, use the existing loop limited access freeway composed of I-220 and Louisiana 3132 (NLCOG’s ‘no build’ option) to accommodate through traffic. I was powerless against a hurricane named Katrina, but I am not powerless against a man-made roadway that could equally destroy my home and life. Dorothy Wiley is President of LOOP-IT, LLC
– Dorothy Wiley
I am Eric S. Thomas, and I grew up in Allendale on Garden Street. There are so many great memories that I have, and I’ve experienced so many wonderful things while living there. I attended Ingersoll, J.S Clark, and Booker T. Washington High School, which were all wonderful neighborhood schools. I enjoyed walking to school with my brother and just taking in the beauty of Allendale, knowing that this was home.
I remember when my brother and I built go carts and rode up and down the unpaved streets of Allendale as we raced for fun. So many things we did and games we played, like running fifty yard dashes on Garden Street brought us joy. We had fun and we cherished where we grew up. My brother and I also loved going to the store for our elderly neighbors and walking to church on Sundays. I’d even gotten married in Allendale on Garden Street and I cherish every one of those memories. Yes, I still cherish Allendale today.
My mother still lives in Allendale and she loves it there. I also attend church there at St. Rest Baptist Church. Allendale means a lot to so many people, and I am one of those people. I love Allendale and I want to see it continue to thrive. I do not want to see my beautiful neighborhood destroyed by an interstate. This neighborhood is worth so much more than that. I believe that since 3132 is already built to link up with I-49 that it should be used to do just that and leave our beautiful Allendale standing strong.
– Eric S. Thomas
Alternate routes into Shreveport spur additional debate
(Article published in the April 16 issue of Forum)
Since the 1970s, area residents have heard the debate surrounding a north/south highway and what it could mean to the economic future of this area.
Both sides seem to agree that Interstate 49 will be a boon to Shreveport-Bossier City and the rest of the state the disagreement seems to fall on how to connect the various completed segments through the Shreveport city limits.
Two camps have emerged. One suggests the best alternative is to route traffic from Arkansas into north Shreveport and merge it onto the existing Interstate 220 loop. That roadway would carry the traffic around the downtown area and remerge it with southbound interstate traffic in south Shreveport at Highway 3132 and I-49. The other faction believes the economic benefits to downtown would be bypassed if the loop route were chosen. They suggest a more direct path through some of the city’s oldest and, some assert, most historic areas.
Currently, the sections of I-49 from the Arkansas line south into the metropolitan area are taking shape. Several are open to traffic already, and others will soon follow. The disagreement on how to get the traffic through Shreveport to the southern continuation has spurred debate, acrimony and legal wrangling that has delayed the completion of the artery for 30 years according to District 2 State Representative, Roy Burrell. He said the project was hobbled three decades ago for a variety of reasons, and he was part of the group in opposition to punching the route directly through some of the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Sister Margaret McCaffery, who headed Christian Services in the Ledbetter Heights community before she died, was opposed to the so-called inner-city route. The fear at that time, Burrell said, was that property owners would be evicted to make room for the interstate and not be compensated by the federal government sufficiently to allow them to acquire suitable housing to replace their condemned properties.
“I remember, because I was on the side of Sister Margaret then,” Burrell said. He has changed his mind in the intervening years, because, he said, he realized that the opposition was in some cases misinformed and in others guided by self-interest to preserve the status quo of the predominantly poor neighborhoods in question. He said those property owners were reluctant to give up rental property in the area, purely for personal financial reasons. “Naturally, they were against the inner-city piece because of the property they owned in the area. In other words, they would make more money off the way it existed then versus the federal government coming in and expropriating the property,” Burrell said.
In January 2013, the North Louisiana Council of Governments Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Committee heard a report from Providence Engineering. Kerry Oriol, project manager for the I-49 Inner City connector study, told the group that of four proposed options for connecting I-49 through Shreveport, none stood out as less harmful. According to minutes of the January 17, 2013, meeting, she told the committee that 400 people had attended public meetings to discuss the routes. Half of those who indicated a preference thought the road should not go through the Ledbetter/Allendale/Lakeside neighborhoods.
Burrell told Forum that black communities have been affected by highway routing in the past. He specifically mentioned the Greenwood Acres and Cross Town neighborhoods that were dissected by the route of I-20 through Shreveport. Those neighborhoods were split, he said, and even became rivals on some issues following the construction.
Burrell said a new study indicates the inner-city connector, the route through downtown, would generate in excess of $860 million a year in revenue. Opposition to the direct route, favoring the loop around the city, has asserted that its preferred route would require no new construction, thus saving money. Burrell disagreed.
“If they dump all the traffic that they anticipate, the latest figures I’ve got are 40-60 thousand cars a day once they open I-49 north and south, it will [overwhelm] I-220 because that is only a four-lane road. We’re going to have to go back into Cross Lake, build new pilings to build additional lanes.”
Burrell said the economic report indicated the I-220 loop route would generate $357 million fewer dollars for the area.
He also raised the issue of environmental complications surrounding oil and gas resources that are known to reside beneath Cross Lake and concern over potential pollution caused by traffic over the city water supply.
Burrell sees I-49 as a major issue facing the city’s new mayor. “Whoever leads this city next time look at the impact of building this road because they are going to have to build it one way or the other. The numbers clearly show that you will have twice as much economic impact going through than you would going around. The numbers clearly show that you will have twice as much economic impact going through than you would going around.”
– Joe Todaro
Company to research Inner City 49 feasibility
(Article published in the March 25, 2009 issue of Forum).
Much has been written about the completion of Interstate 49 north to the Arkansas line. But one leg of the highway has had little attention, and it could be the portion that causes the biggest problem and, according to some, cost the most money.
Between the end of I-49 South where it flows into Interstate 20 and where the route picks up north of Interstate 220, there is a 3-mile stretch of nothingness – an inner-city route that, if finished, would not only cut quite a bit of travel time for vehicles traveling north or south but could possibly breathe new life into areas of the city that have been neglected for years.
Kent Rogers, executive director of Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), said everyone knows where I-49 currently ends at I-20.
“And we know the I-49 interchange at I-220 will be located roughly halfway between Hilry Huckaby and Louisiana 1,” Rogers said.
To determine the best way to connect those two dots, a feasibility study contract was recently awarded to Providence Engineering and Environmental in Baton Rouge. They have 18 months to find the path of least resistance.
Rogers said Providence was chosen through a selection process by NLCOG, an intergovernmental association of local governments established to assist in planning for projects such as this.
“That process requires us to advertise,” he said. “We initially had four firms that submitted proposals. We had a selection process that called in each of those teams, interviewed them, and they made a presentation. We narrowed it down to three. Our board asked them to come back in and make their presentations again to the entire board, and Providence was the team that was selected.”
Funding for the study is roughly $675,000, some of which comes through an unclaimed property bill by former District 9 state Rep. Billy Montgomery, who said it was accomplished with the help of District 39 state Sen. Lydia Jackson.
“This is money that was never claimed, and it rolls over every year as a constant feed,” Montgomery said.
“Additional monies were put into that account last year, and the year before from surplus money and capital outlay,” Rogers said. “Rep. Roy Burrell secured a total of $3 million for the corridor.”
Rogers said because there is also a high potential for federal funding, Providence has been contracted to give NLCOG four scenarios for the connective route.
“You have to look at several different alternatives,” he said. “If you walk in with a predetermined line, you may bias the project and may no longer be eligible for that federal money.”
This isn’t the first time a study has been done on this stretch with a connection in mind. In 1973, a map produced by NCLOG and Demopoulos & Ferguson, placed the preferred alignment through the Allendale, Jackson Heights and Ledbetter Heights communities. This could also be one of the three remaining alternatives.
“Neighborhoods like these are dying,” said Burrell, who represents District 2. “By increasing the number of cars through that area, you create businesses and jobs and help the people. In other words, what some people think will hurt the neighborhoods, will actually help them.”
Dr. Gary Joiner, a history professor with LSUS, agrees with Burrell. “There is no doubt in my mind it would do that,” said Joiner, who is an advocate of building the corridor as an elevated highway. “What you want to do is figure out where the exits are going,” he said. “That’s where you’ll have commercialization and probably some housing.”
Another possibility, Rogers said, is to use the existing railroad right-of-way that goes through the area. Joiner likes that idea, too.
“Depending on who owns the right-of-way, you could get it really cheap,” Joiner said. “A right-of-way is generally 50 to 100 feet wide. If it’s 50, you just take in another 25 feet on either side and clear like crazy.”
There are some sensitive aspects in going through these old neighborhoods, such as existing churches, historical buildings and cemeteries. By using the railroad right-of-way, Joiner believes many of those concerns can be avoided.
“I would like to see the consultants meet with the local historical community,” Joiner continued. “You’ve got to look for the things of historical importance, and remember, just because something is old, that doesn’t mean it’s important.”
A series of up to five community forums, sponsored by NLCOG, should help with Joiner’s concerns. The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for late spring or early summer, Rogers said.
“We are going to take some aerial photographs and then have a series of public meetings … informal meetings,” Rogers said. “Some will be for the communities, and some will be for the community at-large … the Shreveport-Bossier area. Then, we’ll meet one-on-one if requested.”
Rogers said the idea is to find out what the communities want from the corridor. “We will want their input heavily throughout this process,” he said.
There is yet one more alternative, and that is the one called a “no-build,” which simply means there would be no connection built and vehicles would continue to take I-20 or I-220 to get to I-49 North. That may mean money will have to be spent in other ways.
“If they don’t finish Inner City 49, they will have to upgrade La. 3132 when I-49 North is finished,” Burrell said. “It will take trucks filled with toxic waste and hazardous chemicals over Cross Lake, which is Shreveport’s water supply.”
Jackson said these concerns were taken into account when the I-220 bridge over Cross Lake was built. “There’s a separate drainage system on it to protect the water source,” Jackson said. “It’s certainly a concern and a tough balancing act. It’s need versus availability of funds. Do we make a priority of some projects that are handling the existing capacity versus projects that are investments toward future growth? It’s not an easy choice to make.”
Regardless of the route, Jackson feels building the inner-city connection will not be a priority until all of I-49 to the Arkansas line is finished.
“It’s light years away,” Jackson said. “Where it would go predisposes the result of the study. It’s a very expensive corridor. We’re still a couple of hundred million dollars away from completing I-49 North to the Arkansas line, and that 3- to 4-mile stretch in the city costs almost twice as much as the northern stretch of the interstate.”
According to Rogers, every move made on the corridor is time sensitive, and that plays a large role in the process. The project is currently in what he calls Enhanced Stage Zero, which will give NLCOG all the feasibility analysis and environmental background work.
“Each phase gets time-stamped in that once you complete a certain phase, you either have to start the next phase or make a substantial effort toward that next phase in a certain time period,” he said. “You have to have all of your ducks in a row. The environmental issue is especially sensitive because once you are issued a decision from EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and Federal Highways, if you don’t immediately move into the engineering portion of that – and have a sizeable chunk of the construction money in process – within three years, you have to go back into that document, open it back up and go through that part of the project again. It’s the same thing with each stage – and there are several. And in the meantime, standards and costs can change, legislation can change, and we have to set up some type of corridor preservation program because we don’t want people building houses or doing other things within the corridor. It has to be preserved for the roadway.”
In the meantime, Jackson feels the I-49 focus is to the north. “I think it’s safe to say that there are not going to be any construction dollars on the inner-city section until north to the Arkansas line is completed. It just wouldn’t make any sense from an investment standpoint,” Jackson said.
– Bonnie Culverhouse
BUILDING ON HIGHER GROUND
Organizations unite to rebuild our community and provide housing
(Article published in the June 28, 2006 issue of Forum)
Sitting in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans for four days knowing that her home and her church were both under several feet of water, Dorothy Wiley was left without a place to live and fearful for her life in the days after Hurricane Katrina rocked the south coast.
Wiley, her husband, Charles, and his daughter eventually found their way to San Antonio and subsequently to Shreveport, still wondering what was going to be thrown at them next on the involuntary roller coaster they had been strapped into.
After renting a house in the Hollywood area for the past several months, life took a much more positive turn for the Wiley family as they moved into a brand new three-bedroom house this past week.
But it’s not just any house. It’s a house that was built by 50 Notre Dame alumni volunteers in just five days in a part of town that many people had written off as just no good – Allendale.
It’s all a result of the “Building on Higher Ground” project, a nonprofit partnership between The Fuller Center for Housing, Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Louisiana, to build 60 houses in Shreveport, most in the Allendale neighborhood, for evacuees left homeless by the hurricanes.
Construction began on Dec. 12 with three houses in one week – two by the Habitat for Humanity of Chester County, Pa., and one by the inmates of an Illinois prison through the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. The Crystal Cathedral, a mega-church based in Los Angeles, has already sent three teams and has plans to return.
Today, 10 houses are built, of which four are occupied. The Wiley family is moving into house No. 10, built by the Hammerin’ Irish of Notre Dame, this week.
“This is so awesome to me for people to come and put their time in like this and extend their hands to help us. It’s just awesome,” Dorothy Wiley said. “This is a starting point and a settling point for us. There’s a lot that went on in the Superdome, but God spared my life to get me out of there. Now I’m here, and I’m pressing forward. I’m not looking back.”
One of the requirements of the program is that, before qualified candidates can occupy their homes, they have to put in 350 sweat equity hours – time that they give to the local organizations usually by actually working on the work site itself.
“I come out every day to help with the work,” said Wiley. “I’ve put in my 350 hours and someone else’s as well because I’ve been out here since March helping. I’ve worked in an office most of my life and never thought I was the outdoors type, but once I did, I liked it so I kept coming out.
“I’m very grateful for the people that have come. They’re like an extended family to me. I use my hands to do whatever I can around here, and the great thing is that once I move into my home I can walk out of my front door and be right here on the work site to help with other homes as they go up.”
Much of the groundwork for the project was done from what the newly formed community calls “The House on the Hill,” officially known as The Friendship House. Jewel Mariner, community coordinator for Community Renewal in Allendale who works with children, has lived in the house since 2002 and has witnessed the total transformation.
“There was crime, drugs, gangs, violence and shootings. You name it, it was here. Drug deals went down in the street in broad daylight,” she said. “I grew up in the military (retired Air Force), and so the first time I came here I didn’t know it existed. We just started knocking on doors and talking to people and telling them that we were going to be their neighbors.
“It’s been a transformation in their way of thinking, and now to see these new houses going up is amazing. New people are coming in with new ideas, and we’re seeing all kinds of people from all over the United States come together to make a difference.
“You can build houses anywhere, but it takes a lot more than that to build a community, and that’s what we’re doing here,” she said. “When everybody left this neighborhood two years ago, most people just wanted to wipe this area out, but it just goes to show what can happen when people come together.”
For Sean O’Brien, director of the Alumni Community Service Program, otherwise known as the Hammerin’ Irish, the project to build a house for the Wiley family is a little different from projects he’s worked on in the past, although the concept – to build a house in five days – is the same.
“We have 50 volunteers here from 15 different states around the country. Back in 1998, we partnered with the Habitat for Humanity to build a home in five days and typically this is done back in Indiana, but in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita we decided that this year we’d extend the helping hand into the South because we felt helpless.
“We feel like we’ve become a part of the Wiley family, and that’s very special to us. Most of our builds are very close to the campus so we can reconnect quite often. That won’t be so easy in this case, but I know if any of us are in the area, I know their door will be open. This is going to be a wonderful community. It’s infectious, and we hope that us being here will inspire other groups to do the same and come and help.”
Glen Barton is the on-site construction manager with The Fuller Center and has played an integral part in all 10 of the houses that have now gone up. While progress has been good so far, he’s eager to see more local groups get involved.
So far, the 2nd Munitions Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base and Shreveport police have been involved in construction on the project. St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral has sponsored a house, and other groups have helped with cleanup and interior work.
“We’ve had a lot of folks from out of town come and help, but we need to get some local folks involved as well,” said Barton. “Some groups that come in get the job started, and then they’re gone. Others will start and come back, but this (the Hammerin’ Irish) is the most ambitious group we’ve had. We’re all motivated by getting people in decent homes. People need somewhere safe to live, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
David Westerfield, spokesperson for Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal, agrees that more local support would help make the project that much sweeter. “This is more than just building houses; it’s about building a community here and restoring a neighborhood,” he said. “It’s amazing. Who would have thought this would be happening in Allendale? The more we do, the more people hear about it, but we need more local support. We’ve had some local people involved, but we need more.”
Janice Harris, one of the first people to actually occupy one of the new homes, earned her sweat equity hours in March and April, and her home was dedicated on May 30, along with two others.
“People think this is a bad neighborhood, and it’s not. It’s what you make of it. We’re building a new community here,” she said. “I never thought that ‘The Hill’ could change, but it’s changing. It’s amazing to see it.”
The local organizations are currently looking for volunteers to help with their “Millard and Linda Fuller Build,” which will take place September 17-22. Named after the founders of The Fuller Center, based in Americus, Ga., the build aims to construct 10 houses in one week. Teams are already committed from Indiana, Minnesota and other places.
For the Wiley family, though, it’s a win-win situation. They get a new house, they get 50 new friends, and they get to be a part of a brand new community built by the labor of love from people around the country.
“I’m here, and I’m okay. Doors have opened up, and I’m not looking back,” Wiley said. “My faith has grown stronger because of this, and I know that there will be tears when the people that built my home have to leave. But I can promise you they will be tears of joy.”
PUSHING NORTH WITH I-49
(Article published in the Jan. 17, 2007 issue of Forum)
There are plenty of critical projects on Louisiana’s Interstate 49 North/South wish list: I-49 north of Interstate 220 to Arkansas state line, Interstate 10 south to Lafayette airport and the U.S. Highway 90 conversion in New Orleans to I-49. But for one north Louisiana representative, there’s only one I-49 project on his mind: Shreveport’s Inner City I-49 Connector (ICIC).
While most political agendas in north Louisiana are focused around securing funds for the portion of I-49 that will connect Shreveport to Arkansas, state Rep. Roy Burrell, D-District 2, has made the ICIC a personal crusade – working diligently to find funding to take the interstate straight through the heart of his inner-city district, clearing the area of dilapidated properties, drawing new businesses and creating jobs.
“Some things do make sense, and this does,” Burrell said of building the link that would connect I-49 at I-20 and I-220. “There are so many reasons why we could bring this interstate project straight through the inner city of Shreveport, instead of taking it around the city loop. The ICIC is an opportunity waiting to happen,” said Burrell, a retired plant and network planning engineer of Bell South for 22 years.
Burrell said, the inner-city corridor, which includes the Ledbetter and Lakeside-Allendale communities, could be a tremendous asset to the people of his district and the city of Shreveport depending on how the project package shapes up.
“Through extensive research on interstate projects in other cities,” Burrell said. “I have discovered new ways they build interstate systems now. They’re building more accessible, more artistic parkways that can be more of a reflection of the community. If the I-49 connector is built correctly, it could facilitate economic development, boost growth opportunities, create jobs for inner-city residents, allow traffic efficient access in and out of downtown Shreveport – adding to the overall ambiance of the city.”
As plans stand now for the proposed north/south I-49 corridor, travelers heading north on I-49 would exit the interstate at the 3132/Inner Loop Expressway, then wrap around the western edge of the city through I-220, picking up I-49 northbound at a U.S. Highway 71/La. 1 interchange, then make their way north to the Arkansas boarder. This versus a 3-1/2-mile trek through an urban area Burrell said sorely needs an uplift, with approximately two miles of it undeveloped and one mile that contains property that is “dilapidated, vacant or adjudicated.”
This route, approximately 12 miles around the city, was decided once the state met public opposition from inner-city residents back in the ’70s, but Burrell said he now has a message to deliver from his constituents. “The long-standing myth about the people of these struggling neighborhoods, which lie in the wake of the almighty north-south I-49 corridor, being opposed to its journey through their front yards or back yards is just that – a myth,” Burrell said.
“Citizens were making uneducated decisions concerning the negative effects of the ICIC passing through their neighborhood. Once they realized special interested parties seeded their neighborhood with nonfactual and erroneous information for their own benefit, they were in full support of the project,” Burrell said.
Burrell said the inner-city project passed a milestone when Gov. Kathleen Blanco, at the end of last year’s legislative session, gave permission to the I-49 North Fund and Feasibility Task Force to reconvene to consider forming an Inner City I-49 Connector subcommittee to study the issue.
Several weeks ago, the task force met and voted without opposition to proceed with a Funding and Feasibility Stage “O” study. “Thirty years ago when the initial studies were done, we didn’t have gaming or the new convention center in downtown Shreveport. The time is right to revisit this project,” said Tommy Clark, chairman of the I-49 North Fund and Feasibility Task Force. “Now the I-49 Inner-City Connector, with the right plans, could be a tremendous opportunity for Shreveport and a revitalization effort for those communities.”
Once permission is approved by the Department of Transportation and Development of Federal Highways, the study will be conducted by the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG).
“We are expecting to receive the go-ahead to begin the study any day now,” said Kent Rogers, executive director of NLCOG. “The 3-1/2-mile corridor to be studied is an area roughly between the Allen-Pete Harris Drive and Caddo-Ford streets straight across to Highway 1 and U.S. 71 at I-220.”
Rogers said the study, which is expected to take approximately two years, will include a series of community meetings to get citizens’ input and will end with a final formal public hearing. The 3132 Loop and I-220, Rogers said, is the interim intended route for traffic coming into Shreveport at this point, but with the interstate’s current traffic counts, he doesn’t anticipate the loop being a “permanent” solution. “A previous study was conducted back in the early ’90s with a certain traffic count projected by 2020, and we have already reached that projection. We believe it will be more realistic to use the 3-1/2-mile inner-city route as a permanent route.”
The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, which has been an advocate for the inner-city I-49 extension for years, was host for the historic meeting for the I-49 subcommittee members. “We are supportive of the completion of the road through the inner city,” said Richard Bremer, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. “It is fair to say that up to this point, we have focused our efforts on funding and completing the 34 miles from I-220 to Arkansas, but we believe it would be good to go ahead and begin the preliminary study process that would take I-49 through the inner city of Shreveport.”
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover agrees the Inner City I-49 Connector has the potential to bring life back to the Allendale/Lakeside area; however, he said the “biggest challenge facing Shreveport’s future” is getting I-49 from I-220 to the Arkansas state line.
“I have talked to Rep. Roy Burrell about the need to re-energize the Allendale-Lakeside area, and I am on the subcommittee board that will work with that plan,” said Glover. “But if we don’t concern ourselves with the I-220 to Arkansas, then all other efforts involving the north sections would be for naught. It’s the 33 miles I’m mainly focused on right now.
“Until we actually get that accomplished, we are risking the future of our ability to have direct access to the Midwest and western states and having goods transported to the port of New Orleans.”
Inner-city residents and other backers said the ICIC is the missing link that would help revitalize and create jobs in their communities.
Rudolph S. White, chairman of the ICIC Concerned Citizens Committee, a retired educator and resident of Milam Street, said he believes the ICIC would help his community and increase membership at his home church, Avenue Baptist Church, which was built in 1890. “The Allendale-Lakeside area so desperately needs to be revitalized, and I believe the I-49 Inner City Connector would do it,” White said.
Giovanni Reid, executive director of Christian Services for the past nine years, said he’s for the ICIC as long as it doesn’t create a “wall” in the community. “I believe it would be an asset to help develop and enhance the area – provide more outlets for the people, like easy access to shopping and gas stations,” Reid said.
Percy Carey, who moved into the Allendale-Lakeside area in 1973, said he has seen many people from his community move away, leaving behind blighted property. “This will be a great thing – an opportunity to clean up dilapidated property in our neighborhood,” said Carey.
“I was around when the I-49 project was first proposed, and most of the people who were worried about having to move then have already moved away now. This will bring businesses to the area,” said Carey, who drives more than three miles from his home to get gas or groceries.
The Rev. Robert C. Canada pastors Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church on Laurel Street, which runs about 250-300 in attendance. Canada, whose church is looking to expand its facilities now and provides a daily after-school feeding ministry to the community, said he supports the ICIC project. “The inner-city route would create easier access for our members that live north or south of the inner-city area,” Canada said. “It would also create new job opportunities, bring revitalization and possible growth to our church area.”
Caddo Commissioner Carl Pierson Sr. of District 3 said he also agrees the ICIC Connector could be a positive project that would help “stir economic development” in his district but said because there are residents in his district who still have unanswered concerns, he would like to see a “pre-forum meeting” to help inform the political and community leaders on the details of the project.
“First of all, before this project is brought to a public forum, the political leaders who actually represent the people in the Lakeside-Allendale community need to be properly informed,” said Pierson. The District 3 commissioner said a pre-forum meeting would allow leaders a chance to “get on board,” so that they can assure their constituents of their support. “The people look to their representatives for that assurance,” Pierson said.
The idea of the inner-city connector across the 3-1/2-mile strip isn’t new. The city of Shreveport proposed it more than 30 years ago, according to former Caddo Parish Public Safety Commissioner and retired Caddo Parish Sheriff Don Hathaway.
“In 1972-1973, we commissioned a corridor study to take I-49 from I-20 straight up to I-220,” Hathaway said. “We were using a federal 90/10 percent funding to do the study with a national engineering company out of Kansas, Mo. We also asked them to include a couple of our local engineering firms that we used in our parish projects.”
Hathaway said public hearings were conducted throughout the corridor because they recognized the highway would affect low-income areas. “We included political, religious and businesses leaders of those communities. The study was approved – signed off by local, state and federal entities – but somewhere down in Baton Rouge, it was cut off. I can’t say where because I left the commissioner’s office in 1978,” Hathaway said.
“I support the project because it’s obvious that it should be built. There’s an awful lot of transportation cost that would be incurred if I-49 was taken around the loop,” he said. “With the proper off ramps, it would open the inner-city area up to new businesses. And now, with the housing project removed, it would benefit the whole area.”
However, some say the I-49 north corridor from I-220 to Arkansas must be made the state’s highest priority, and others should be careful not to lose sight of what’s important to the state as a whole.
State Rep. Mike Powell, R-District 6, said the ICIC project should not be Shreveport’s focus right now. Powell, the only northwest Louisiana representative on the House Transportation Committee, said “the bigger concern” right now for our portion of the state should center on the fact we don’t have full funding for the “most significant” portion: “I-49 north from I-220 to Arkansas.”
Powell said it’s a shame Gov. Blanco set aside $400 million for transportation from the state’s surplus but didn’t allow for any of it to go to completing I-49 north from I-220 to Arkansas.
Caddo Parish Administrator Woodrow “Woody” Wilson said the commission disagrees. They believe the ICIC project should be one of the parish’s top priorities for funding this year.
“As a parish commission, we have submitted the I-49 Inner-City Connector project for federal funding consideration because many of our commission members are urban city commissioners, and we believe that what will be good for the city of Shreveport will also be good for the parish as a whole. We can’t have blinders on – only looking at the entire project’s potential; we must also look at each portion of the project as economic development opportunities,” Wilson said.
“Lafayette was able to get their portion of the I-49 project running through their inner-city with on and off ramps, and just look at the economic impact it has had for them. I-49 north is not just a one-dimensional project. If we don’t take care of what affects us as a city and a parish, then we may miss this opportunity to tie this whole I-49 project together.”
With so much surplus money, which some experts expect to climb to $3.5 billion or more before the regular session begins in April, one would expect that funding for I-49 north of I-220 would be secured and a pledge for the future of the ICIC project would bring together the entire Northwest Louisiana delegation in Baton Rouge for support. The potential of our economy and quality of life for its citizens can be measured. It seems to be 3-1/2 miles by many.