A long awaited road project kicked off Thursday with a groundbreaking at the intersection of Reynaud and Wallace roads, north of Highway 90 between Sulphur and Westlake.

The Coach Williams Drive Extension is an $18.4 million, two-year project that includes a new roundabout — the first in West Calcasieu — at the intersection of Coach Williams Drive and Old Spanish Trail, as well as improvements to Houston River Road. The cost will be split between the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and Sasol.

“This is a major project for Southwest Louisiana,” said District 14 Police Juror Hal McMillin, whom Parish Administrator Bryan Beam credited as the project’s champion. “This is going to be a main artery road that’s going to go from Houston River Road, right on down to the industries.

“In my conception, this could be the start to a North Loop. So, we’re going to hit Houston River Road. Why not just keep on going around and cut through and make it to Moss Bluff someday?”

McMillin noted that construction in support of Sasol necessitated the closure of Evergreen Road, which intersected with Old Spanish Trail. “There was a little bit of heartburn there, but we got through it,” he said. “We wanted to do something for the community … an imprint that will last forever.”

C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates engineered the project and local business HD Truck & and Tractor, LLC were selected from the five bids submitted.

Richard Brink, Sasol VP of Safety Health and Environment, said this project is part of the $40 million Sasol has invested locally in infrastructure improvements. “We did recognize the impact we’ll have on the community — both positive and negative,” he said. “A lot of people may not realize it when they are traveling at 6 a.m., but the traffic will go away and the infrastructure will remain.

“Our journey is, fortunately, coming to an end,” Brink continued. “We’ve already had some units starting up and that will continue into 2019.”

Parish Engineer Tim Conner said the project required the acquisition of 77 parcels of land. He commended his staff for their work toward that.

The extension will be three miles of a two 12 foot-lane, asphalt road with a roundabout on the south end. It will tie into Houston River Road on the north end. Houston River Road will be widened to provide a turning lane in and out of the new road.

“This is an important part of our transportation grid,” Conner said. “This is going to be a straight shot all the way from Houston River Road to I-10 and that’s very significant to commerce.”