Woodworth Boulevard project in Port Arthur one step closer to beginning

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

A project first approved in November to beautify Woodworth Boulevard from Lakeshore Drive to Gulfway Drive is one step closer to construction following City Council’s recent vote to allocate an additional $4.2 million for improvements.

The project, expected to begin this summer, was first pitched to cost $10 million. A design by Arceneaux Wilson and Cole LLC. included rehabbing pavements, widening sidewalks, enhancing lighting, adding additional parking near Lakeshore Drive and adding irrigation as part of landscaping.

When first presented, City Engineer John Cannatella said the city currently had $3 million set aside for the project, noting that prices would increase in time. City Manager Ron Burton said there was $10 million in the capital improvement plan that had not yet been allocated.

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Last week councilmembers voted to add additional funds to the $3 million set aside, bringing the total to $7.2 million.

This brought opposition from former councilman Harold Doucet, who spoke openly at the March 30 meeting.

“Is that landscaping in what’s in the boulevard and is the design for all of that included in this cost?” he asked.

Burton said the goal was to improve the entire streetscape of Woodworth Boulevard, referencing the previous discussion that the project would ultimately cost more than $3 million.

“When the presentation was done, the engineer clearly stated that we do not have all the figures that was required, and so in order to move with phase one of the project, $3 million was allocated,” Burton said. “Now that we have much more firm figures on the project, council has decided to allocate another $4 million to complete the phase one of the project. And that includes the entire street.”

Doucet said portions of the plan that included landscaping did not meet requirements set in 2018, when councilmembers passed a $60 million street improvement program.

“The additional money that you’re requesting to make this section pretty is not what we passed the bond for,” he said. “We passed it to fix streets. If we got $4.2 million, we should add more streets and fix streets because that’s what the bond was for.”

Doucet was on the council at the time the capital improvement project was approved.

It was funded with the use of bonds but did not require a vote from the public.

“The point is you all don’t have the right by vote to change what council has approved,” Doucet said. “Council approved ($60) million for streets. You do not have the right to take the money for streets and go to beautification.”

Councilwoman Charlotte Moses, who was also on council in 2018, reiterated her excitement for the project, which she openly welcomed when it was presented in November.

“This council has the right with four votes to change anything,” she said. “And the directive is, from this council, we saw the presentation of Memorial Boulevard. We respectfully all agree that that’s what we want to see for Port Arthur. And anything can be brought back up to this council with four votes and changed.”

Moses said she is happy about what streets have been completed through the capital improvement plan and has information on all of them.

“We see what it’s going to bring to the table for our citizens,” she said. “We see what’s going to take place for our citizens. We have four votes to change the direction and put that money where we want to see it best utilized. I’m thankful that we are going to make some decisions that we keep getting criticized for because we don’t have anything in Port Arthur and things don’t look aesthetically the way they’re supposed to.”