The highway planning process in Shreveport continues to reveal its flaws and public manipulation. In 2012 NLCOG, North Louisiana Council of Governments, revived a “dead plan” misleadingly named “I-49 inner-city connector” at a time when cities across the US and around the world are tearing down and blocking similar destructive expressway projects.
NLCOG’s outdated proposal – build a 3.5 mile limited access elevated expressway through an inner-city low-income African American neighborhood (Allendale), a residential historic district and across wetlands at a cost of approximately $500 million. Contrast that amount to the 34 miles of I-49 north of the city of Shreveport, that after 35 years and $670 million, is nearing completion. After political persistence directed approximately $3 million in state funding, NLCOG hired consultants in 2012 and began the long and cumbersome process of planning the ” I-49 inner-city connector” (a process designed to outlast any opposition). During their “phase 0” of 8 phases NLCOG succeeded in creating confusion and illusion of public process. NLCOG’s misleading the public resulted in formation of an Allendale neighborhood group, Loop-It. A citizens learning community formed to better understand the destructive nature of NLCOG’s promoted inner-city expressway and learn more about better alternatives. Loop-It developed a position to separate through traffic using the existing loop and build a business boulevard connector that in part utilized an existing road desperately in need of redesign for local traffic. This strategy is consistent with the “Highways to Boulevards” movement that is returning to prosperity parts of cities devastated by these city-destroying expressways. Loop-It mobilized public action that resulted in NLCOG being directed by DOT to go back to the planning process for more public input. It became clear that the loop option NLCOG had named “No Build” (meaning no cost) during “phase 0” would now become a build option. NLCOG public inferences revealed their blind resolve for the destructive connector. Their new revelation to the public, the existing interstate loop and State 3132 constructed and in use for interstate traffic were not up to standard and would cost big bucks.
At this writing a year later NLCOG is about to release its predicted slight-of-hand to change “no build / no cost” use of the existing loop to “build / ridiculous cost” use of the existing loop. The early information release to those in the business community enlisted by NLCOG for support, $1.2 billion to widen and improve the existing interstate loop that was designed and constructed under the direction of guess who?
Has NLCOG tripped over its passionate loyalty to old strategies to build expressways through poverty? Do they believe they can easily confuse and misdirect public opinions with flawed traffic modeling? Have they forgotten the contents of the 1995 environmental impact statement for I-49 North of Shreveport to Arkansas? Here is an excerpt from the 1995 Environmental Impact Statement concerning planned use of the existing loop and the requirement for a separate Federal EIS for any further consideration of a connecting link between the loop and I-20:
Traffic studies conducted during the 1995 Feasibility Study determined that carrying traffic on I-220 west and then south on the inner loop (LA 3132) is viable without having to provide a direct connection from I-220 to the junction of I-49 and I-20. If the I-220 to I-20 connection were to be considered in the future, a separate environmental analysis and document would be developed.
Since the EIS was completed the trend across the US is people are driving less. The vehicle miles traveled projections made by DOT in 1997 for the year 2012 were approximately 400% too high. Here is an article and chart posted on the Loop-It Facebook page that shows the drving trend and the consistently high projections used to forecast interstate highway usage, Travel Forcast Follies, US DOT refuses to learn from travel trends.
Your decide. From this side of the internet highway it looks like its time to change the public process and NLCOG.