by Malcolm Butler
Buc-ee’s is still going to call Ruston home.
It may just be a little later on the 2025 calendar than the original timeline provided when the news first broke in January.
According to Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker, due to the time-frames for Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) studies involving traffic flow the opening of the travel center may be later than originally projected.
“The DOTD requires a traffic study that will take 180 days,” said Walker. “At the same time there has to be an interchange and modification report that will take 12 months. Some of that can somewhat run concurrently, but not a lot of it. They really need the traffic study to decide the modifications, but there is some cross over. As Buc-ee’s (officials) said to me, ‘Mayor sit back and relax for six months because we can’t do anything until then.'”
Walker did say that both City of Ruston officials and Buc-ee’s officials are still talking through things on a regular basis.
“We are still talking every week about things that we can take care of,” Walker said. “I personally feel it will be pushed back a couple of quarters if I had to guess”
That pushes the opening of the world-renowned travel center which will be located on the north side of I-20 along Tarbutton Road to the middle of 2025.
So when will residents start to see dirt move?
“That is a Buc-ee’s decision,” said Walker in reference to the actual site. “As far as the service road, it is when we get approval from the state legislation.”
That approval won’t come until July 1.
“Nine months to a year,” said Walker. “There is just a lot of planning.We have to sign a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) and all of that. Even if we get money which we expect to get, it won’t be available to us until October, November or December.”
Walker said the plan is to do a straight appropriation out of the budget instead of a capital outlay. He isn’t 100 percent sure what the dollar figure will be yet due to the timeline.
“The timeline is what is catching us,” said Walker. “They asked us to ask for whatever we could spend in that fiscal year. If we don’t know until we get the traffic study, we don’t know for sure. It will be somewhere between $8 and $12 million.”
The project will occur in two phases, according to Walker.
Phase 1 is where Buc-ee’s is located and will consist of the property that Buc-ee’s will call home and the connection onto I-20 going west. Phase 2 will consist of the frontage road that will connect the Tarbutton exit to Grambling on the north side of I-20. The frontage road will be for two-way traffic going east and west.
“We have to have phase 1 done in order for them to open,” said Walker. “Phase 2 can be added (after they have opened).”