If you've spent time driving in Lafayette, you've probably figured out that Congress Street is an important road when it comes to getting around. Well, that road is about to get a fresh look near the downtown area if all goes according to plan.

Wait, what's going on with Congress Street?

The Congress Street Streetscape project is moving into its next phase, and the goal is to make streets "more welcoming for everyone." This means wider sidewalks, medians, and a whole lot more accessibility. According to The Acadiana Advocate, this project stretches from University Avenue to the railroad tracks in downtown Lafayette, aiming to make the area feel even more "connected" to downtown.

Didn't we already "fix" Congress near Downtown Lafayette?

The City Council has given the green light to get the rights of way needed for this project. You may remember when Congress Street went from five lanes down to three, creating bike lanes and creating a ton of on-street parking. You totally aren't making that up, but those changes were just the beginning. Now, things are going a step further by reducing the section between Evangeline Drive and St. John Street down to two lanes, making room for a median that’ll not only look great but also help slow down traffic.

If you're walking or biking, this is especially good for you

For Lafayette cyclists and pedestrians, this is big news. There’ll be five-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of Congress and on-road bike lanes. Plus, from St. John Street to the railroad tracks, the plan includes an 8- to 10-foot-wide shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians on one side, and a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the other.

For everyone who scrambles to find a place to pull up downtown, there’ll still be plenty of on-street parking, which, believe it or not, helps slow traffic down. So not only do we get function and beautification, but this also makes our streets safer.

More than just Downtown

Speaking with Downtown Lafayette CEO Kevin Blanchard, this is more than just a project that will improve downtown Lafayette.

When this is finished Congress Street is going to be transformed. And this project benefits the surrounding neighborhoods just as much as it does downtown. It’s not only going to be a safer place to walk or bike - it’s going to spur private investment as well.

A few downtown residents have already vocally expressed their excitement about the proposed project. One resident in the Souvenir Heights drive who regularly commutes to UL campus and the Fightinville area said they were looking forward to "safer crossings, more enjoyable walks, and bike rides," and just "feeling more connected to downtown."

Google Maps
Google Maps

Another homeowner in the area echoed that sentiment adding that this isn't just good for locals, but for those visiting the Lafayette area as well.

As a downtown homeowner, I support the proposed changes to Congress as a start to make this side of Downtown Lafayette a much more visually appealing and safe place to travel to our favorite events and places downtown. With the proposed addition of medians, landscaping, improved bike lanes, and expanded sidewalks, this will hopefully cause drivers to drive more carefully through the area. I’m excited to see a step in the right direction that’ll make downtown just that much more appealing for visitors and locals alike.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the next phases in this project play out and we will provide updates. In the meantime, check out the full story here via The Advocate.

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Gallery Credit: Sarah Jones