Catherine Losavio, Jackson-Jones, Jocinda
(09/08/2023) Lake Providence, La. – Until this year, rural communities in Louisiana had limited options for improving sidewalks. Thanks to the East Carroll Parish Police Jury and recent changes in Louisiana’s Transportation Alternatives Program, Lake Providence has received $2 million to help put their newly adopted complete streets plan into action.
The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is a federally funded program administered through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) that focuses on creating “complete streets,” which address the needs of all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and people with disabilities. This includes building safe, accessible sidewalks that connect residents to everyday destinations like schools, grocery stores, parks, and libraries.
Formally adopting a complete streets plan, like the East Carroll Parish Police Jury did this August, ensures that the DOTD will be aware of community needs for projects on state owned highways in Lake Providence.
In a state with one of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities in the nation, this investment will help make transportation safer for residents traveling without a motor vehicle. Lake Providence will use TAP funding for projects in their complete streets plan, including rehabilitating or installing sidewalks, crosswalks, and wheelchair ramps.
“East Carroll Parish being awarded the TAP funding to improve the community's pedestrian infrastructure and safety is a major win for the entire community. The funding will enable the construction of much-needed sidewalks and safety measures, including high-visibility crosswalks, wheelchair ramps, and overhead lighting. These enhancements will enhance mobility, accessibility, and overall safety for residents and visitors alike, making East Carroll Parish a more pedestrian-friendly and secure place to live and visit,” said Kendall Thompson, East Carroll Parish Police Jury President.
Before 2023, communities with less than 5,000 residents that received TAP funding had to contribute a 20% cash match in addition to covering Design and Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) costs, which average an additional 20% of project costs. This means that in the past, a $500,000 sidewalk project would cost a small town $200,000.
Police Jury President, Kendall Thompson and Attorney Janna Kiefer at the LA Rural Complete Streets Summit Photographed By: Ruthie Losavio
Community members completing sidewalk surveys with the LSU AgCenter at the Lake Providence Soul Food Heritage Festival (2022) Photographed by: D. Jones Visuals
“With new flexibility allowed in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), our LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities team and I worked with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to make TAP a more feasible funding option for rural communities,” said Dr. Stroope. “As a result, DOTD lowered the match to 5% for communities under 5,000 residents and will no longer charge CEI costs to communities under 50,000 residents. This means that a $500,000 sidewalk project will now cost small towns closer to $25,000.”
Brian Nunes, who oversees TAP in Louisiana, says the flexibility in the new federal infrastructure act (IIJA) allowed them to address previous equity issues and reach Louisiana’s rural, distressed, low-income and transit dependent communities.
“Before we made changes to the match requirements, rural communities rarely applied. The program was out of reach, and the funds were unspent,” said Nunes. “Because of the changes and our partnership with LSU AgCenter, during the latest funding cycle we received 15 applications from those same smaller communities. Louisiana is now using all federal funding designated for rural communities for the TAP program.”
In October 2022, representatives from Lake Providence attended LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities’ Rural Complete Streets Summit. The summit matched communities with mentors, including rotations with program leaders at DOTD, to help rural communities understand and navigate the funding application process. All communities who attended the summit and submitted a TAP application received funding.
Barring any unforeseen delays, work will likely begin within a year. Keep your eyes peeled and walking shoes ready for improvements in 2024. For more information, please The East Carroll Parish Police Jury at 318-559-2256.