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Alexandria City Council approves adding bike lanes, hears report on debris cleanup efforts

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Alexandria City Council approved the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for Phase 1 of bicycle and pedestrian improvements for the entire metro area as recommended by the Alexandria-Pineville Bicycle and Pedestrian plan.

The plan was completed by the Alexandria-Pineville Metropolitan Planning Organization back in 2017.

This has been a topic of discussion at the last several council meetings, but the council delayed a vote until the meeting on March 23 to be able to hear from the public on what they wanted.

Two weeks ago, KALB put a poll on our website asking residents what they prefer. Nearly 1,900 people participated in the poll with 62% of them being against adding bike lanes.

However, at the council meeting, only two people from the community spoke and both were in favor of the bike lanes. The motion passed after council members Catherine Davidson, Reddex Washington, Cynthia Perry and Jim Villard voted yes. District 2 Councilman Gerber Porter voted to oppose while councilmen Lee Rubin and Chuck Fowler abstained and said it’s because they own property on those streets.

Jonathon Bolen, the Transportation Director for the Rapides Area Planning Commission, said, “The Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is intended to serve as a guide for improving bicycle and pedestrian activities in the Alexandria/Pineville metro area. It provides a coordinated, multi-jurisdictional strategy for enhancing conditions and providing inter-jurisdictional links for biking and walking in support of the metro area’s mobility, quality of life, tourism and economic goals.”

This plan also includes adding the lanes to major roadways like Jackson St., Versailles Blvd. and Masonic Dr.

“There was a lot of concern on what would happen to the traffic on Masonic Dr. particularly because it will go from a four-lane to a three-lane road,” said Rubin. “I know a lot of people were opposed, but you need to get in front of the council and make your opinion heard. The opinion by the people that came and the majority of the council thought it was the best thing to do.”

The plan’s recommended pedestrian and bicycle improvements are programmed to be implemented in five phases throughout the metro area. Phase 2 of the project will be for Pineville and the remaining phases will be to add more lanes in Alexandria. This project is fully covered as 80% of the funding is coming from state and federal funds while the remaining 20% is being matched by Cleco.

The council also heard a report about the debris cleanup progress after last year’s hurricanes. The City of Alexandria’s sanitation department said it could be another two to three months before they get back to a normal pickup schedule and finish the debris cleanup.

Part of the reason is residents are still waiting on their insurance companies so they haven’t thrown their trash out yet. The other delay is that the sanitation department is down staff members and vehicles. In the next few weeks, more trucks will be coming in, which should help out with the process.

Utility Director Mike Marcotte told the council that the city will be drilling five new water wells in city limits to help prevent what happened during last month’s ice storms that left residents under a boil advisory for nearly a week.

Two special committee meetings will be held by the council on Tuesday, March 30 and April 13 to discuss the operating and capital budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Those meetings will start at 4 p.m. and will be open to the public.

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