Six years in the making, the expanded Arthur Ray Teague Parkway will open Feb. 27 with a ribbon cutting at Colleen Drive near Parkway High School at 10 a.m.
“It's been a long and circular path dealing with government individuals, land owners, and interested parties and thank goodness for Bossier Parish it's been completed,” said Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus.
Work began September 2011 on extending from the CenturyLink Center across the Red River Wildlife Refuge connecting it with Sligo Road near Parkway High School.
“We researched a lot of things and the only viable option to provide (traffic) relief in the southern part of the parish is the parkway because there's nowhere to go with the river and railroads,” Altimus had previously told the Press-Tribune.
Parish officials spent more than six years gaining the land necessary to complete the extension.
The road as it is now came into doubt after learning the proposed route of the parkway would cut through land owned by the Red River Wildlife Refuge. However, officials were able to successfully navigate a land swap deal that appeased all parties. The parish bought property from a private foundation and swapped that property with the U.S. Department of the Interior, which provided land for the road and a possible park.
The approximately $7.4 million project was paid for from Super Build America Bonds created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package.
This program allows the government to pay interest on loans, meaning Bossier Parish will pay less than one percent.
The original dream was to extend the parkway south to Sligo Road, but now the jury sees a need to keep expanding the parkway south to the proposed intersection of I-69 near Taylortown.
“When you think long term about the unbelievable amount of people that come out of Red River and Webster Parish into Bossier, and when you look at all the options to move traffic in that area being able to come through and extend the parkway as it was intended, it's going to be great benefit to the parish and city,” said Altimus.
Potential hurdles include buying right of way, ability to perform the extension, and even the Haynesville Shale.
“You have to look at if it's viable. We looked at potential (oil and gas) well sites and they're everywhere. As people develop their property, there are things that could be put in the route of the parkway. If you can identify and let people know this is where it could go, we will acquire the right of way as soon as possible so you have the corridor preserved,” Altimus had previously pointed out.
While traffic concerns didn't become top of the list until the last decade, a major, north-south corridor was conceived nearly 30 years ago.
That became the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway.
Originally opened July 1, 1993, the Parkway was expanded to reach from I-20 near Traffic Street to the Jimmie Davis Bridge. Since that portion of construction, ramps were added in late 2010 to access that bridge and the Shreveport-Barksdale Bridge.
“Capital outlay money paid for the part to CenturyLink, safety money paid for the ramps onto Jimmie Davis Bridge, and taxpayers paid for the extension south, so you have numerous sources from numerous entities to make that happen and without it, it would've been tough,” said Altimus.
The original expansion south is due to Highway 71 South being the only major access in the southern portion of the parish. And Altimus had told the Press-Tribune previously that expanding that highway is cost and engineering prohibitive.
“Highway 71 isn't viable, you would have to elevate it because you couldn't go anywhere with it. That's not feasible,” he said.
Advice from School Board on impact of traffic for Parkway High School students
The impeding opening of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway will impact traffic flow at Parkway High School.
Traffic congestion is anticipated for motorists who utilize Sligo Road to arrive at the school, as they will have to make a left turn onto Colleen Drive to access the campus.
Due to Hwy. 71's designation as a state highway, a traffic sign and stop light cannot be placed at Colleen Drive and Sligo Road.
“If you're coming from the Parkway, you can make a right turn no problem, but coming from Sligo and turning left is where bottleneck is going to happe,” said Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Parish Schools.
Using Parkway High School student counts from 2011, this is expected to impact nearly 600 students.
Therefore, to avoid traffic conflicts, the Bossier Parish School Board is asking drivers to access the Parkway from one of the streets north of Sligo Road including Westgate/Shreveport-Barksdale Highway, Shady Grove, Panther Drive/Walker Place and the Jimmie Davis Highway to loop onto the Parkway. Motorists will then take a right onto Colleen Drive to enter the school.
The school board expects law enforcement officers to be available to assist with traffic flow during peak school hours when the extension initially opens.
“We just want to be as proactive as possible and let everyone know,” said Bailes. “By working together and being on the same page, hopefully we can make this as smooth of a transition as possible.”