Highway 80 development: Good, bad, or inevitable?

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Bossier Parish officials are making way for the growth taking place along the U.S. Highway 80 corridor, as it has quietly become a major growth area.

However, it’s not completely up to the parish to decide what’s coming next.

“Highway 80 is a state highway. Everything that happens on that road is done by the state of Louisiana. They make the call,” Parish Administrator Bill Altimus said.

Last month, officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development met with residents about their options for improving the traffic in the area. One of their options was to construct special turn lanes, some of them “J” turns, in a half-mile stretch of U.S. Highway that would impact Eastwood Baptist Church and residents of the Country Place subdivision.

Glenn Benton, Police Juror for District 2, said he was approached years ago with concerns over the amount of traffic near Eastwood Baptist Church during morning and afternoon rush hours.

“I told them to contact their state representative because Highway 80 is a state road,” Benton said. “The state said they were going to take out the center turn lane and put in J turns instead.”

But, Benton said the road itself isn’t the problem.

“It’s a state issue. Not a parish issue,” Benton said. “We’re set up for future growth in this area and we’re addressing those future needs.”

Haughton resident Everett Ray expressed in a letter to the Bossier Press-Tribune that there be a halt to “development along the east and west corridors of Highway 80 in Haughton” because “this corridor cannot handle anymore traffic.”

“It barely handles the traffic it has now and when there is an accident on I-20 all east and west bound traffic is diverted to Highway 80, making matters worse,” Ray writes.

Because of the amount of public opposition to the proposed project, DOTD officials announced at the June meeting that they would not move forward with securing funding for the construction project for alternative turn options on Highway 80.

Ray said in a phone interview that he feels as though the older, established homes cannot handle new businesses and the traffic it may bring to the area. He said residents who have settled in the area and have called it home for many years will be “pushed to move if these changes continue.”

“If the district police jury and the DOTD come together before large projects that it would hold a larger impact on the future of the highway.” Ray said. “I’m not an expert myself but I want what is right for the people. The residents moved here for peace and quiet and that is all about to change.”

The potential for Highway 80 development, however, is viewed differently by parish officials.

“Everyone has a right to their opinions,” Altimus said. “Highway 80 has been there a long time and it was, at one time, the main road before I-20 and I-220 were there.”

When asked if the roadway could handle more development, Altimus said it’s already a trend in Bossier Parish.

“There’s a tremendous amount of development in that area that I think is only going to continue,” Altimus said. “People move where they want to move and I think a lot of things go into consideration when deciding where they want to go next. The fact is you’ll see a lot of people want to start heading out that way.”

Although the parish has no control over the state’s decisions, Altimus and Benton said the Police Jury is working to improve the quality of life in the Haughton area.

“We’re spending $45 million in water systems and sewer systems in the parish to clean things up,” Altimus explained. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Bossier Parish has grown by about 14,000 people in the past 10 or 12 years and there’s a reason for that.”