Ruston prepares for changes

This picture just shows part of the changes coming to Ruston, thanks to a DoT grant.

Change is coming to Ruston. 

The Monroe Street Project, part of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant, will bring about aesthetic and assistive changes to the city of Ruston. 

Mayor Ronny Walker said this grant, which totals $17.5 million, will help bring downtown Ruston and the campus of Louisiana Tech together as well as put the last piece of the Rock Island Greenway into place. 

“This is a huge project,” Walker said. “If you walk the greenway and you get to the interstate and come to that old railroad track – that’s going to be a street. There will be an eight-foot bike trail on one side, and a five-foot sidewalk on the other.” 

Then, as the downtown component, Tech and Ruston will flow seamlessly together. 

“When we finish this project and you leave downtown and walk to Tech, it’ll have the same look,” Walker said. “It’ll look the same, plus it’ll have a smart city test bed.” 

A smart city test bed, Walker explained, will usher in a new age of technology for the city. 

“If you leave your house and you want to go downtown to park, you can open an app and see if there’s an open parking spot,” Walker said. “If there’s a shot fired, it can triangulate where the shot was fired. It’s got so many applications. Big companies like Verizon and AT&T want to test stuff in our test bed.” 

Another benefit from being a smart city test bed will be autonomous vehicles in downtown Ruston. 

“Right now we use a shuttle,” Walker said. “We hope if we can finish up a four-block area, we can have autonomous vehicles running from downtown Ruston to Joe Alliet Stadium.” 

Naturally, though, this grant does come with a price tag. Walker said the money for this project will come from sales taxes and reserves, much of it from the sales tax money that is generated from Ruston’s Sports Complex. 

“We have to put up about $3 million,” Walker said. “Tech has to put up some money too, but this is why we get grants. We’re willing to put up some money.” 

The grant, along with Tech being in close proximity, encourages big tech companies to come to north Louisiana, Walker said. He said when applying for this grant, he saw that in the last 10 years, $145 million grants in these funds came to the state – but less than 3% came to north Louisiana. 

“When I went to D.C. and lobbied for this, that was my message,” he said. “And we received $17.5 million. Only one other grant was awarded that was larger than ours; it was in Hawaii, and they received $20 million. This is huge. No one in north Louisiana has received one like this.” 

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