By Paige Nash
Attempts to have a road repaired in Webster Parish have fallen short and it could possibly have a negative effect on business owners in that location due to a cooperative endeavor agreement between the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) and the Webster Parish Police Jury (WPPJ).
According to Owner of Impressions Advertising Specialties Craig Watson, the constant through traffic of big trucks has left the condition of Frontage Road in Minden in shambles and has impacted his business along with other businesses along the road.
The question that comes into play is who owns the road and is responsible for repair and upkeep?
According to LADOTD District 4 Engineer David North the state does not own the road but owns the land and there is “zero chance” that the state will be having the road redone.
“It is not a desirable position for the state. It is not a state road, and it is not part of a controlled section,” said North. “We are limited by law on whether or not we can work outside of a controlled section.”
When the interstate was originally being built in the late 50’s and early 60’s, properties for the right-of-way for Interstate 20 were purchased under a controlled access agreement, which means that the entirety of the state right-of-way in that area is enforceable as controlled access.
The deed between the original property owners, the Smallenberger family, and the LADOTD was dated October 14, 1953. It states that the department bought the property for $16,169.
North said, “Part of the boundary agreement was that the state builds a road to that property and that road is what is in existence today. That was the end of the agreement – build a road and they did, and it’s finished.”
The road in question is located at Exit 38 and runs West of Goodwill Road and parallel to Interstate 20. Watson says the road has concrete markers to indicate that it is a state-owned road.
But LADOTD Public Information Officer Erin Buchanan says differently. In an email sent to Watson she says, “This road was constructed on state right-of-way outside the control of access and was built as a passage to a property at the end, essentially a private driveway. It is not owned and maintained by DOTD. The markers are right-of-way markers, not markers that note it is owned or maintained by the state.”
According to Watson, Webster Parish was supposed to receive road credits or 40 years’ worth of maintenance money and that has allegedly been taken away.
A road credit is when the LADOTD repairs a parish road and then dedicates it to the police jury, who then takes over maintaining the road.
No road credits were mentioned in this cooperative endeavor agreement between the LADOTD and the WPPJ.
“I will be honest with you, at the time when we were talking about doing this, we were also talking about some roads that the state wanted us to take,” said WPPJ Jim Bonsall. “They offered us some credits, and, in my mind, I think I got mixed up on the two deals.”
The cooperative endeavor agreement includes expanding the width of the interstate right-of-way in the event that there is an expansion of the interstate, which is expected to happen in the future.
North said, “When they expand interstate, they want the maximum width to accommodate that.”
North presented the jury with preliminary drawings of Frontage/Goodwill Road and stated that the expansion would not affect the business owners’ property.
The approximate $2.6 million expansion project is expected to begin accepting bids in 2025.
Watson questioned North on what would happen if it came in over budget and asked if this was just a “stalling method.”
“2.6 million budget is not going to happen,” said Watson. “It is going to go out for bid and come in over budget and then they will have to put it out again and it will be pushed out another two years.”
The WPPJ may consider building another road in between the property owner’s land and the newly expanded road after that project is completed by LADOTD.