Road Surfacing Begins as part of the Smooth Ride Home Program

Cosay Road, which connects U.S. 167 and La. 103 in the Plaisance area, smelled of asphalt Tuesday as crews tamped down an 18-foot wide, three-inch deep bed of blacktop. Theirs was the first resurfacing effort in St. Landry Parish’s long anticipated Smooth Ride Home effort.

The project has been underway for months, but until now the work has consisted of rebuilding road foundations and laying new culverts and drainage pipes.

“You can do all the prep work you want, but until you are laying down asphalt people will say you aren’t doing anything,” said Donnie Saucier, an inspector with Aucoin and Associates, of Eunice, who was on site to make sure the work was up to code.

“I think the people will be happy when they see the results,” Saucier said.

Ahead of him was a mile of a pothole-rutted road that in places was turning back to gravel. Behind him was a mile of new, smooth pavement.

Beside him was a huge yellow machine that occupied the entire width of the road.

“It is an AP1055E. Just call it an asphalt spreader,” said operator Lee Series with Coast Construction, a professional road construction company.

Series was taking a short break as he awaited the arrival of another dump truck loaded with 17 tons of asphalt to feed his machine. That was enough to move the project ahead about 40 feet.

After the new coat of hot asphalt had set for a couple of hours, a steamroller moved back and forth to create the smooth surface that motorists will experience.

Parish President Bill Fontenot said Tuesday afternoon the crew, one of three active in the parish, will probably complete another mile of road that day and then another mile the day after.

He was joined on the construction site by members of the parish council, all eager to see the result of their years of work to draft and then pass the new 2-cent sales tax that is paying for the project.

Despite the dismal shape of Cosay Road, Fontenot said it is in better shape than most of the 470-plus roads the parish plans to resurface over the next three years.

“It was rough and the surface was deteriorating, but the foundation was still good. All it needed was a resurfacing,” Fontenot said.

He said that isn’t the case with many of the other roads in the current resurfacing plan.

He pointed to the WPA Road that crews are preparing to resurface. “The whole foundation is bad. We are having to dig up 2 to 3 feet of the old road and mix it with lime and cement to create a new foundation,” Fontenot said.

Regardless of the condition of the roads, Fontenot estimated that the first two Smooth Ride Home packages will extend their lives for about 15 years.

The first contract, which was awarded to Opelousas’ Prairie Contractors, is upgrading or entirely rebuilding 66 miles of roads south of U.S. 190.

A second contract, which was awarded to Coastal Bridge of Baton Rouge, is upgrading about 50 miles of roads north of U.S. 190 and in the Eunice area.

Fontenot said the parish will bid out four more projects worth about $10 million each over the next few years to address a total of 472 roads throughout the parish.

“We will hold our next bid at the end of the year or early next year and then another by early summer,” Fontenot said.

St. Landry Parish has had some of the worst roads in the state for decades. That is finally changing as the Smooth Ride Home program begins what is expected to be a massive, $66 million parishwide road rebuilding effort.

“I’m feeling really good,” Fontenot said. “When people ask, ‘When are we starting?’ I can say ‘right now.’”

Now that the asphalting has begun, he said motorists will experience traffic delays — not too bad, he hopes. Each road should be useable within a day or less after it is resurfaced.

In most cases, crews will resurface only half the road at a time so traffic may move during construction.

“This is the fruit of the people’s vote. Our roads will be better than state roads and better than federal roads. Both programs are greatly underfunded. The voters of St. Landry Parish have funded a first-class road program,” Fontenot said.

Voters last year passed a 15-year, 2-cent sales tax in the rural portions of the parish. All the money goes to rural road improvements. It cannot be used for salaries or other parish projects.

That tax passed by a comfortable margin. It is expected to generate about $7 million a year.

*Article and Image courtesy of the Daily World and Freddie Herpin*