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Storms may have effect on Lafayette population, traffic

Storms may have effect on Lafayette population, traffic

Storms may have effect on Lafayette population, traffic

A new study from TRIP, a national transportation research group, shows that roads in Lafayette that are congested or in poor condition cost drivers thousands of dollars each year in operating costs, lost time and crashes.

Amanda McElfresh

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Lafayette Parish is expected to have more residents in the coming years, although the exact number may depend on natural disasters in Louisiana and Texas.

In 2010, there were 221,578 people in the parish, according to the Census Bureau.

The current projection is for 232,470 people in Lafayette Parish in 2030, an increase of 5 percent.

But demographer Mike Hefner said it remains unclear how many people might move to and stay in the parish permanently following last year’s floods near Baton Rouge and this year’s Hurricane Harvey, which affected several parts of east Texas.

“I think it affects things in the short term,” Hefner said. “In the long term, it’s hard to say.

"We saw we had a pretty good number of people who stayed here after Katrina in New Orleans. A lot of it depends on the circumstances with their house. If they are renters, it’s easier to set up roots in a new place. If they own property, they have to decide whether to sell it and move, or go back and renovate.”

Hefner’s data shows that in recent years, Harris County in Texas has been one of the primary areas that has both drawn Lafayette Parish residents and provided new residents here.

Whether that trend continues remains to be seen.

Hefner noted that with the recent opening of Interstate 10 and other roadways between Lafayette and the Houston area, more people may be prompted to head east, rather than north.

A demographic report Hefner presented to the Lafayette Parish School Board this summer showed, unsurprisingly, that the biggest population growth is happening in southern Lafayette Parish, although areas in the northwest part of the parish and near Ossun have also seen growth.

Fewer people are moving into the central core of the city of Lafayette, which is trending toward more older residents.

“I think what we’ll see initially, for now, is more people from elsewhere moving into apartments,” Hefner said. “They will set up until they make a decision on whether or not to stay, and from that point, whether to rent or buy.”

Any increase in population will mean more traffic, Hefner added. He noted that newer residents may be unfamiliar with unique roadway designs like the Johnston Street/Camellia Boulevard intersection, or roads with ongoing construction, like Verot School Road.

In his report this summer, Hefner noted that the vast majority of people in Lafayette use automobiles, with 84 percent of people driving a car alone to work.

“The lack of meaningful alternative transportation infrastructure in Lafayette basically guarantees the parish will remain auto-centric,” Hefner wrote.

“This, along with the associated issues of traffic congestion, can affect the quality of life in Lafayette and may have more of a long-term impact in attracting new families into the area than most people realize.”

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