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 Is St. Landry The Real Gateway To Acadiana?

Photograph: Rep. Dustin Miller and St. Landry Parish Councilman Harold Taylor at last night’s business after hours sponsored by the Central St. Landry Economic Development District (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor/Consulting Writer

Is Lafayette guilty of geographic misdirection or does Bill Rodier have it right?

Rodier thinks the actual Gateway of Acadiana begins about 30 miles north of where it is now purported by Lafayette Parish economic officials and he’s not afraid to say so.

The junction of Interstate 49 and U.S. 190 which connects outside Opelousas should be designated as the beginning for the Acadiana Gateway location Rodier told a group of parish elected officials and economic leaders during an informal Central St. Landry Economic Development District meeting Wednesday night.

Rodier said he became skeptical of a Lafayette promotional campaign when he saw an Evangeline Thruway billboard proclaiming the Hub City as the spot where the Gateway of Acadiana starts.

“The true Gateway is at 190 and I-49,” Rodier told a crowd that attended the CSLEDD monthly that was held at the Equine Center on Harry Guilbeau Road.

Rodier recalled when he took the job nine years ago as executive director for the St. Landry Parish Economic and Development District, that some of his colleagues questioned his decision.

“People came to me and asked why I would take that position. It was because I saw nothing but opportunity here. The potential was untapped, but you had access to two colleges and a pair of four-lane highways. There was also the smooth ride home program started by Bill Fontenot, that was repairing roads all over the parish,” Rodier said.

Parish economic development at the onset represented a number of challenges Rodier said, but he acknowledged that his economic development office is located on I-49, a roadway that he calls the backbone for continued commercial improvement.

Rodier repeated what he has said for the past year, that I-49 landscape heading south from Opelousas will continue undergoing dynamic changes, as green spaces that are now evident begin to disappear over the next five to eight years.

The Central St. Landry Economic District which collects a 1-percent sales tax on services provided by businesses from Flagg Station Road to 190 has been responsible for financing the infrastructure improvements that have become noticeable since 2017, said Rodier.

What’s On the Way?
Rodier said currently there is an economic growth spurt around the I-49 interchange with Harry Guilbeau Road.

There is a prospective new housing development that could potential cover 60 acres, while there will be commercial property available north of Giles Automotive on the I-49 service road, according to Rodier.

Rodier predicted increased traffic congestion caused by as many as 1,000 additional vehicles a day, will occur in Opelousas around Highway 190, as several new businesses open begin opening in that area.

What Has Been Done?
Rodier pointed to the Central Economic Development District improvements that have approved by CSLEDD board members.

Those enhancements Rodier said, included lighting located at several interchanges between 190 and Harry Guilbeau road, in addition to regular grass cutting and litter abatement.

“All I remember about the Harry Guilbeau and I-49 area when I first got here was a motel and a road with no lights and a lot of pasture,” said Rodier.

Since then the CSLEDD board created almost five years ago and board chairman Buddy Helton have added amenities and improved the infrastructure with LED lighting and grass cutting contracts that have beautified the District, Rodier said.

The completed construction in June of a new sewer system that serves commercial and residential development south of Opelousas has also improved waste water treatment for much of the city, since it has redirected a main municipal sewer line to the new site, said Rodier.

Now able to handle as much as 150,000 gallons of waste water daily, the sewer plant has the capacity to expand if necessary as growth continues, Rodier said.

Area business representatives attend Business After Hours Wednesday sponsored by Central St. Landry Economic Development District. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)