The Lafayette City-Parish Council introduced an ordinance last week that, if approved, would create a joint-endeavor agreement with UL Lafayette for installing bicycle lanes along St. Mary Boulevard between Taft and St. Landry streets.
In the agreement, the university would reimburse the Lafayette Consolidated Government up to $70,000 for restriping the 0.8-mile stretch of St. Mary Boulevard to allow for bike lanes on both sides of the street. It would also reduce automobile traffic to two lanes.
“(The council) seems to be very receptive to the idea, and the fact that UL is paying for it helps out a lot,” said Jerrod Olivier, vice president of BikeLafayette, who addressed the council at its July 2 meeting. Olivier also represents bicycle interests on the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan’s Citizens Advisory Committee and serves on the advisory board for Transportation and Recreation Alternatives in Louisiana.
“What’s great about that is it’s not only a connector for campus to get to the sports center and also the apartments on Eraste Landry, but also for the residents of the Saint Streets,” Olivier said. “It gives them safe passage to get to the Oil Center, Girard Park and everywhere else.”
Although Olivier said he expects the project to be underway later this year, it’s unclear when the roadway adjustments would begin taking shape.
“We don’t necessarily have a time frame, because we haven’t gotten approval from the council,” explained Jennifer Severson with Lafayette’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The ordinance is up for final review at the council’s July 16 meeting.
When the university posted information about the proposed bike lanes on its Facebook page, some students rejected the idea.
“Yeah, keep getting rid of parking spaces and road lanes for bikers,” commented Alex Boudreaux, a sophomore music education student. “Glad I’m paying more each semester for something that won’t benefit anyone. This MasterPlan (sic) is only causing more trouble.”
Some commenters expressed concern about potentially heightened traffic congestion upon reducing motor vehicle lanes, while others embraced the idea.
“There are plenty of parallel streets that cars do not need to be using St. Mary during school hours,” suggested UL alumna Alison Moon. “LSU closes their main roads during school hours and UL could do the same.”
The roadway improvements would be the first step in a proposed overhaul of that stretch of St. Mary Boulevard as laid out in the university’s Master Plan, which includes eventual sidewalk widening, lighting improvements and planting. Costs for that project are estimated at $746,395 and will be funded through the Master Plan Advancement fee voted in by students last October. Students are charged $7.50 per credit hour for up to 15 hours.
In addition, the MPO is working toward extending the existing two-mile bike and pedestrian path along Cajundome Boulevard to East Lewis Street to provide a connection between the main campus and Cajun Field.
The $506,990 project is to be funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities Livability Initiative, which provides grants “to finance capital projects to… construct bus-related facilities, including programs of bus and bus-related projects,” according to the FTA’s website. In accordance with a requirement that the project be located within three miles of a transit station, downtown Lafayette’s Rosa Parks Transportation Center is less than 1.5 miles away.
The bikeway extension is scheduled for construction April-September 2014.
Lafayette’s City-Parish Council adopted a resolution in March to work toward a dedicated goal of spending 10 percent of the annual urban systems funding — which comprises federal roadway dollars for urban development — on bicycling and pedestrian improvements. These funds total around $5 million a year, which would make the proposed bicycle and pedestrian improvement budget around $500,000.
“That’s a pretty good amount,” Olivier said.