Lawsuits still pending in Shreveport's Highway 3132 case - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Lawsuits still pending in Shreveport's Highway 3132 case

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After many delays, a contract to move forward Thursday with a Stage 1, or route selection study, was finally signed.However, the controversy over building the extension of Highway 3132 in south Shreveport started back in 2011.

The seven-step process to build a Louisiana Highway takes more than 10 years.

The extension of Highway 3132 is stalled near the beginning of that process in between Stage 0 and Stage 1, and it is already taken four years.

“Stage 0 is basically a real quick, cursory look at a project to see if it's feasible or not; are there any major show stoppers to kill the project or not. If not, go,” said Kent Rogers, executive director of Northwest Louisiana Council of Government.

Rogers manages state transportation projects in our region. He said Stage 1 studies typically begin right after a Stage 0 is complete. He went on to say at least four different lawsuits filed by the Finish 3132 Coalition and Willis-Knighton Medical Center since 2012 delayed that study from moving forward.

“It's odd that the group that claims they want this thing finished has basically done everything they can to point, to keep it from moving forward,” Rogers said.

The plaintiffs who want 3132 completed disagree with that assessment, but what is indisputable is that there are two remaining lawsuits in play, one each in federal and state court.

Both cases deal with some component of the corridor selection process. The Finish 3132 Coalition is the most prominent group to allege that government entities as well as key public officials short-circuited that route-selection process as developers encroached on possible corridors.

“You have to follow these laws on 100 percent transparency, show the routes that were withheld, have public hearings that are real hearings that allow an exchange of information,” said Elliott Stonecipher, spokesperson for the Finish 3132 Coalition. “That's what the federal law really does, that's the purpose it serves.”

Thursday, NLCOG and the Stage 1 contractor finalized a contract to move forward, authorizing the route selection study to begin. The Finish 3132 Coalition has not yet reviewed the new contract to see if it satisfies their concerns.

“I don't think the public is fooled,” said Stonecipher. “I think they know why the people who are supporting Tim Larkin and his subdivision, don't want to settle. What he really needs is to kill this highway.”

Land Developer Tim Larkin now has the green light from the city of Shreveport to subdivide the last phase of Esplanade subdivision. Land that the coalition believes is part of a concealed route for the 3132 extension, but Larkin, who stated he is not opposed to the extension, said the land is out of the way of what the Stage 0 study deemed reasonable potential for the highway.

“It allows for the right of way… should they decide to build it here, to come through the property without disturbing the lots that are there. So the highway doesn't disturb the lots, and lots don't disturb the highway.”

Larkin thinks this would be discovered once the Stage 1 study is conducted.

The cost of fighting the lawsuits over time is thousands of dollars. We've requested an exact number from the public entities, but we have not received an answer.

Rogers said the engineering firm selected to perform the Stage 1 has yet to sign the contract, but still loses money on the project.

In a letter to NLCOG, Burk- Kleninpeter Inc. states they have spent "considerable costs" responding to a lawsuit with the Finish 3132 Coalition and Willis-Knighton. They ask for the proposed contract to include a reimbursement clause for their legal fees. If that is included, they will sign and start the Stage 1 study right away.

Rogers said an offer was returned to them, and he hopes to have an answer by the end of the month.

As for the lawsuits, no hearing dates have been set.
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