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Steps taken to improve I-10 corridor

The city of Lake Charles has taken an encouraging step toward improving its appearance from the interstate, and it’s worth the cost.

The City Council on Wednesday accepted a $227,031 bid from Pat Williams Constructions for the beautification project, which will include landscaping the downtown exit off Interstate 10 at Ryan Street and the casino exit off I-210 at Cove Lane. The parish has agreed to pay 25 percent up to $45,000.

Originally, the city planned to start planting vegetation in November but ran into “some issues” with its first round of bid responses, according to Lori Marinovich, director of downtown development. She said the city rebid the project near the start of the year, and now expects to start planting in late March or April.

For the next phase of the project, the city aims to landscape the I-10 and I-210 exits at U.S. 171.

“We want people to remember Lake Charles, not be glad they’re leaving,” said city Planning Director Mike Huber on Wednesday.

The interstate corridor seems to be a city priority at the moment. The council has hired Baton Rouge consulting firm CSRS Inc. to develop economic incentives to spur growth along I-10, and the mayor held a listening session downtown last month to hear ideas from residents and business owners.

Attendees of the meeting called for the demolition of the abandoned pink parking garage along the interstate and emphasized the importance of making a good first impression on interstate drivers.

Adding landscaping at the downtown exit will be a relatively inexpensive, sustainable way to dress up an otherwise unsightly entrance point, and it makes sense that the high-traffic casino exit at Cove Lane would also be prioritized.

Landscaping alone won’t solve the city’s image problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Some may understandably question why the city’s spending money on palm trees and crape myrtles when it’s dealing with more pressing needs, like drainage and road improvements.

But considering what such an investment could generate in revenue down the line by enabling the city to draw more interstate traffic, a one-time payment of around $200,000 doesn’t seem so high — the council spent more than that on vehicles alone at its last meeting.

The city would do well to continue prioritizing the interstate corridor and searching for creative ways to beautify it. It’s a worthwhile investment.  

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