Council talks fixes for Roddy Road

Aaron Looney
Two vehicles prepare to pass each other on a stretch of Roddy Road between Airline Highway and Weber City Road Thursday afternoon. Roddy Road has been described by parish government officials as the top road construction priority in the parish because of its narrow lanes, steep dropoffs and high traffic volume. With the recent death of a Gonzales teen on the road, family and friends petitioned the council’s Transportation Committee Tuesday to widen the road in an effort to make it safer for drivers.

After hearing pleas from friends and relatives of a Gonzales teen who died along Roddy Road in June, the Parish Council’s Transportation Committee vowed to make renovations to the roadway.

Many who were close to 17-year-old Ashton Ford, who was killed when her car left the roadway and struck a ditch, were in attendance at Tuesday’s committee meeting in the council chambers, where the committee was to discuss possible fixes for the road.

Councilman Chris Loar made a motion that parish Public Works Director Bob Turner move forward on applying striping to the outsides and center of the road.

Loar’s motion also directed Turner to look into cost estimates of placing culverts over the existing ditches that line the road and covering them with topsoil and grass to create a shoulder.

Prior to the motion, the committee discussed possible widening and paving of the road. However, both Turner and Parish President Tommy Martinez said that such a project would take a significant amount of time to complete and cost the parish more money because purchasing of right of way would be required.

“Right now, purchasing right of way is costing more than construction,”?Martinez said.

Martinez said adding paved shoulders to Roddy Road would cost around $1.5 million, which the parish does not have at this time. However, he did say that he intends to place a half-cent sales tax proposal on a ballot next year to fund road projects.

During public comments, some of Ford’s friends and family in attendance asked the committee, Martinez and Turner when they could fix Roddy Road, calling the matter a life-or-death issue.

“We’re pleading with you that something needs to be done right now,”?said Shannah Petite, a friend of Ford. “I’ve seen money spent in less important situations. You are saying you can’t bend your budget to save one life. Is one life not worth it? Ashton’s was.

“Stop giving us the runaround. If you’re not going to fix Roddy Road, tell us you are not going to do anything.”

Ford’s grandmother, Marion Legendre, said two schools and 11 subdivisions sit along Roddy Road, while wider roads have seen less development.

Martinez said that parish has long had Roddy Road as its top road construction priority, but that making improvements has been “a matter of financing.”

Martinez also said that when a project goes through the state Department of Transportation and Development, it can take up to eight years to come to fruition.

Turner said that throughout the 650 miles of parish-maintained roads, he does not know of one that doesn’t need improvements.

“Most are narrow and few have good shoulders,”?Turner said.

Martinez agreed, stating that he believed “99.9 percent of parish roads are substandard.”

“We need to widen roads in Ascension Parish,”?Martinez said. “We don’t have the funds, so we’re doing the best with what we have.”

Turner said that his office cannot handle a project the size of renovating Roddy Road at the present time, and that the parish would have to contract with an outside firm for any major renovations to the road. He said he felt the road striping would be a short-term help.

“We need something faster than eight years,”?he said.

Turner also said that he did not favor the dirt shoulders approach because it would not be the most sound engineering solution to the problem.

In other news, Turner said he planned to speak with residents along Canon Road about the possibility of turning a portion of the roadway into a one-way street.

The stretch in question would run west from Roddy Road. to Hwy. 44.

Turner said  he would speak to residents to poll interest in the move before bringing his data back to the committee next month.