Several Allendale Strong members were able to share remarks with the road show (Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Highway Priority Construction Committee to Northwest Louisiana) this morning. Check out what Bill Robertson shared below, and submit your own input. We now have 45 days to mail in written comments to the following:

P.O. BOX 94245
BATON ROUGE, LA 70804-9245

Written by Bill Robertson


BOSSIER CITY – Welcome the Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Highway Priority Construction Committee to Northwest Louisiana.  A special Shreveport-Bossier welcome to our new legislators elected just last fall.

I’m Bill Robertson.  I retired three years ago from Foster Campbell’s North Louisiana Public Service Commission office.  A year ago I registered to lobby the executive branch and local government.  I thought I would apply the skills helping people that Foster taught me on behalf of my clients.  Even with him as my mentor I’m not too good at my new job, because many of my clients are non-profits that don’t pay me, especially these transportation projects.  Mostly I’m running around Shreveport trying to undo mistakes committed by public officials not doing the public’s bidding but that of some private interest, or multiple private interests, who have your ear.  In one spectacular case I’m trying to prevent another mistake, this one costing a billion dollars to save motorists about three minutes of drive time.

The oldest case is the spectacular one, the reason I came down to this poorly advertised hearing in this suburban location.  It’s the Interstate 49 Inner-city Connector.  The one-billion-dollar boondoggle that proposes to gouge a three-point-five-mile scar through north Shreveport between I-20 and I-220.  The one that duplicates an existing loop around our city’s west side composed of LA 3132 and I-220.  

The project that quite possibly may be the last elevated freeway through an urban area to be built in the United States, because American cities have by and large stopped building them and in some cases are actively trying to tear them out.

I am a member of Allendale Strong, a small band of freeway fighters that meets monthly to come up with ways to torment the likes of you.  We figure we will wear you down and eventually persuade you, or your successor politicians on this board, to again remove this project from our state’s list of transportation priorities, which is the status it had in the 1990s.  The 49 Connector was revived from the dead list, which is why we call it a “Zombie Project.”  It’s not needed, isn’t wanted except by a few rich suburbanites, and has no financial or operational justification.

I’m also a member of Reopen Lake Street!, a small grassroots group of mostly independent businesspeople in downtown Shreveport.  They are trying to hold the City to its promise to support commerce and reopen this vital entrance to downtown from our scenic riverfront boulevard, Fant Parkway.  The Union Pacific Railroad, with its ridiculous $10-million demand for reopening Lake Street, and indifference from our city government are the only things standing in our way.

My newest project is a collaborative effort to implement some traffic-calming measures on Shreveport’s historic east-west Kings Highway.  We can’t quite decide if Kings should be a wealth-building, neighborhood-supporting, walkable street; or a fast-moving arterial road capable of handling a lot of surface traffic.  Possibly it can be both, in sections, if the City allows some citizen-led planning input, coaxes some affordable utility-pole relocation by SWEPCO, and miraculously persuades adjacent businesses to adopt modest reductions in their business signs.

Here’s my wish list for you:

  • On the I-49 Connector elevated freeway project, the message is cancel it and put the savings into improving the condition of the loop.  
  • On Reopen Lake Street!, the message is help Shreveport municipal government support its downtown business community by overcoming the clumsy bullying tactics of the UP Railroad that wants to keep Lake Street closed.
  • And, on Kings Highway, thanks to the previous Legislature and Administration for their generous support of the Kings Highway Healthcare Corridor.  We encourage you to build on that 27 million dollars in support and help Shreveport develop “One Great Highway” in the heart of our city – beautiful, safe, prosperous and effective.

Before I say thanks for your service and for giving me this forum, I want to note that you have changed the name of this committee, and I hope not for the reasons I suspect.  It used to be known as the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.  Now it is simply the Joint Highway Priority Construction Committee.  You have dropped “Transportation” and “Public Works,” leaving only “Highways.”  In today’s multi-modal, “Complete Streets” era, that sounds kind of narrow-minded.