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|Mayo meeting with DOTD officials fuels mayor's optimism|
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo says a recent visit with Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development officials reassured him of the state's commitment to various projects the city's involved in to improve roads here.
Mayo recently traveled to Baton Rouge with other city officials for their first meeting with William Anker, the new secretary at DOTD.
"This was my opportunity to meet him for the first time, and for him to meet me and my staff," Mayo said Tuesday following the regular Monroe City Council meeting. "We talked to him about our priority projects such as the Kansas Lane connector and other projects that we're working on."
Besides the Kansas Lane connector, city and DOTD officials talked about the Interstate 20-Garret Road interchange, and the project to improve the entrance to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in southern Monroe.
DOTD officials plan to visit Monroe by the end of the month where Mayo said Anker will "take those projects off paper and visualize them."
"It was a very good meeting, and I felt good about it," Mayo said.
"The governor has shown his commitment by funding the Kansas Lane connector this past session," Mayo continued. "The city has contributed funds, so we now have local, state and federal commitments. Of course, we need more money, but the commitments are there and they see that (Kansas Lane connector) will be part of an overall plan to create an inner loop for the city."
The city of Monroe met heavy opposition last year from opponents of the Kansas Lane connector. Opponents of the project said it would disrupt life of residents living in this area. They also said the connector was not needed.
Former Sen. Charles Jones was one of the most vocal opponents of the five-lane expressway. He said residents living in the Cypress Point area do not want the expressway passing through their neighborhood.
Proponents of the connector say it would provide needed traffic relief along U.S. Highway 165, and they say it also would help spur economic development.
Last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal said the state is committed to fund $1 million for the Kansas Lane connector.
Roughly $10.5 million in federal funding has already been secured for the connector, but the city needed local and state funding to draw down those federal dollars. The Kansas Lane connector project is estimated to cost more than $26 million.
The state also has allocated $2 million for the I-20-Garrett Road interchange project near Pecanland Mall.
That project calls for the widening of Garrett Road overpass from two lanes to five lanes. A four-lane overpass also will be built to pass over railroad tracks at the now-closed Selman Field Golf Course, eventually connecting the roadway with Kansas Lane.
City officials say the interchange project is needed to alleviate bottle-neck issues and to free up traffic so it will flow better in that area.
The project also is part of the inner-city loop concept to provide better access to Monroe Regional Airport and the city's industrial park. It has been estimated the interchange project would cost $30 million.
"The most important thing is to have administrative support from the governor, and I believe we do," Mayo said. "It's also important to have support from our legislative delegation, which we do, and to have the local support from the city council and the business community. We have all of the support there to make those projects a reality, and these are projects we've been working on for some time. Those infrastructure projects will help growth and development within the city in a major way."