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|Expressway authority awaits impact study|
The first environmental impact study for the proposed construction of another bridge over the Ouachita River should be completed by the end of March as local officials await word from Congress on a $3-million request to proceed with the next round of studies.
The Lafayette consulting firm Fenstermaker & Associates, hired last year to conduct the study, informed Ouachita Express Authority officials the phase zero study was near completion.
The $3 million officials requested to conduct more work on the project would be used toward the phase one study, which can begin as soon as funding is secured, said Dax Douet, Fenstermaker's engineering director.
The stage zero study is being conducted to determine the most logical location for the proposed bridge and connecting roadway, as well as the least damaging and most cost-effective scenarios.
The study is taking into account the environmental conditions along the proposed location. It also will determine if there would be any negative impact from constructing the roadway, as well as another bridge, over the Ouachita River.
Fenstermaker & Associates also has looking at what impact a new river bridge would have on traffic within Ouachita Parish.
The stage one study is referred to as the "full blown" environmental study.
Once the stage zero study is completed, Fenstermaker & Associates will return to Ouachita Parish and present its findings.
Ouachita Expressway Authority chairman Ron Haisty Jr. said Congress could make a decision on the authority's $3-million request by summer. The state would be required to match 20 percent of federal funding if Congress approves the request.
"Hopefully the Feds will come through and we can move into the stage one study," Haisty said.
The stage zero study will help firm up a price tag for the overall project, which could be as high as $200 million.
The Expressway Authority currently is researching various funding sources, which the authority could go after to complete the project.
"We've discussed several avenues of funding," Haisty said. "Right now, we're pleased with how things are going."