ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - State and local leaders broke ground on a $27.48 million project aimed at easing traffic congestion and enhancing safety on Highway 42 in Prairieville.
It has been one of the most talked about roads in Ascension Parish. Traffic on Highway 42, between Airline Highway and Burnside Avenue, can be a nightmare almost any time of day. It's a headache for travelers, but the roadway is a heartbreaking reminder for two women especially. Loretta Templet's daughter, Mandy Acosta, was just 18-years-old when she hyd roplaned on the highway, was hit by an SUV, and died. Miriam Leggette LaCroix's son, Brett Leggette, who was 13-years-old, and his friend, Brett Frederic, also 13, died in that crash too.
"I was standing right here in that parking lot 23 years, three months, and ten days ago when I received the news of their tragic deaths on this highway," Templet said.
For more than two decades Templet led a crusade to make Highway 42 safer. On Thursday, they joined Governor John Bel Edwards and local leaders in breaking ground on the project. The highway will be widened to four lanes, include an 18-foot wide raised grass median, bigger turn lanes for commercial trucks, and bicycle and walking paths.
"It is my hope today, in seeing this project into completion, we will certainly prevent more precious lives from being taken away all too soon," Edwards said.
"Today we are fulfilling the promise to our people for a safer roadway and we will move Ascension forward," said Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa.
Transportation leaders estimate on average, 24,000 people travel this highway every day. With an expected 37,000 traveling it by the year 2034, Templet says seeing the project succeed is more than just a matter of convenience. To her, it means saving another family from the heartache she and her loved ones have suffered.
"When the old road is broken, I'll be able to look up into the heavens and say, Mandy, we did it. You, Brett, and Brett's deaths were not in vain," Templet said.
Construction started on Monday. It's expected to be finished by spring of 2020.