St. Bernard Parish Secures $2M Grant for Connector Road

CHALMETTE, La. — From the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation:

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $2 million grant to St. Bernard Parish Government to build a road to connect the St. Bernard Port, Harbor, and Terminal District and a local highway. As a partner to SBPG and the St. Bernard Port, St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation assisted in writing the federal grant application and securing broad support from community leaders and elected officials.

The grant will provide improved access to nearby businesses and St. Bernard Parish Hospital, encouraging business expansion and growth. The EDA grant will be matched with $1.8 million in local funds and is expected to create 195 jobs, retain 390 jobs, and generate $15 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

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“Securing funding for this project was one of many steps to creating an environment ripe for economic opportunity here in St. Bernard,” said Meaghan McCormack, CEO of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. “We hope the construction of such an integral thoroughfare increases the appetite for more businesses to move into the parish.”

The north-south road will run from the port at the St. Bernard Highway to Judge Perez Drive less than a mile away. It is the first phase of the Florida Avenue extension project in parts of Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, which has been in the works for decades but has been stalled because of lack of funds.

In addition to the north-south connection, the much larger project also envisions a link from Florida Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue and Paris Road, as well as a new roadway bridge over the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal adjacent to the existing Florida Avenue Bridge.

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The federal money comes from a $500 million program run by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency aimed at aiding struggling communities. The $2 million EDA grant will be matched by $1.8 million of local public money.

The St. Bernard Port, Harbor, and Terminal District, which was a co-applicant for the grant with the parish council, dominates the local economy, accounting for about one out of every five local jobs. Traffic congestion has been a perennial issue and has long been seen as a hindrance to economic development, with only two east-west roads and one north-south route in and out of the parish, according to the EDA grant application.

“Not only will the port be able to draw in tenants who were previously hesitant about the existing roadways,” said Drew Heaphy, Executive Director of the St. Bernard Port Harbor and Terminal District, “but it will position St. Bernard Parish to stimulate new development and expansion of existing businesses.”

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Traffic also has been one of the main concerns for parish officials and the Port of New Orleans as they have touted a proposed $1.5 billion container port at Violet, in the eastern end of the populated part of St. Bernard.

Last month, the Louisiana Legislature allocated $97 million for Port NOLA expansion projects, including $2 million allocated to build a road from the site of the proposed Louisiana International Terminal at Violet that would link it to Interstate 510 to the north. If that is built it would mean that together with the connection at the western end of the parish, there would be two new north-south routes to handle commercial traffic from the ports.

Port NOLA announced in December 2020 that it had bought the land for the Louisiana International Terminal in Violet. It has subsequently been engaging with local residents as part of a lengthy community outreach and permit process. It has encountered opposition from some residents, who have said they’re concerned about the traffic and other environmental effects of building a large container port.

Port NOLA is now at a sensitive juncture as it is in the final stages of negotiating to find a commercial operator for the new terminal, which in turn is crucial to secure funding for the project, port officials said.

Meanwhile, the north-south connection at the western end of the parish will be built on land donated by the Meraux Foundation, a non-profit which promotes economic development in the parish. The EDA application said the land was valued at about $4 million.

One of the main benefits of the north-south connecting road is providing an alternative entrance to the St. Bernard Parish Hospital, which is limited currently by having only one way in and out.

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to American communities. The Economic Adjustment Assistance program is EDA’s most flexible program, and grants made under this program will help hundreds of communities across the nation plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through construction or non-construction projects designed to meet local needs. Effective May 26, 2022, EDA has officially closed all of its American Rescue Plan programs for applications. The $3 billion program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through Sept. 30.

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