by Malcolm Butler
With the addition of the state’s first Buc-ee’s opening in Ruston sometime within the year 2025, additional road and infrastructure plans continue to be discussed in preparation.
A key component to all of this is the addition of a new service road that will connect the Tarbutton Road interchange all the way to the Grambling I-20 exit (Exit 81).
The two-way service road will be constructed on the north side of I-20 and will be built in three phases, according to Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker.
“We still have to have the traffic study in progress,” said Walker. “That’s about a six-month process which is scheduled for completion in August.”
Although the timeline for the completion of the traffic study is the end of August, Walker believes it could possibly be earlier this summer.
The price tag for the construction of the road infrastructure is approximately $25 million with state and federal dollars as well as some tax incremental district dollars covering the costs. An additional $5 to $8 million will be spent on the water, electrical and sewage infrastructure for the 82-acre plot that will house Buc-ee’s and any additional businesses.
Walker said Phase 1 includes the roadways that will be built around Tarbutton Road, allowing all traffic to enter and exit off of I-20 and to access Buc-ee’s. The price tag for this phase is estimated to be around $6 million and state funds have already been approved, but are awaiting Governor John Bel Edwards signature.
“We have a preliminary design, but we don’t know what the traffic study will call for yet,” said Walker. “Once that is done, the engineer can actually start to design that roadway based on what the traffic study says is needed.”
Walker said the completion of phase 1 is what is necessary for Buc-ee’s to open.
Phase 2 of the service road will include the stretch on the north side of I-20 starting where traffic can enter I-20 and running all the way to the Grambling city limits. The estimated cost of this stretch is $12 million.
“We hope that most of (phase 2) will be federal dollars,” said Walker. “It’s been put forward. It has not been approved by the feds just yet. Part of this will be federal and some may be from state money and some from TID funds.”
The third and final phase of the service road will be inside the Grambling city limits and will connect the service road to the already existing roadways around the overpass (around the old Keg building on Exit 81).
Walker said that he has talked to Grambling Mayor Alvin Bradley about combining forces to go after the funding for phase 3 which has an estimated cost of around $6 million.
“We met with Mayor (Alvin) Bradley recently and have volunteered our city and our administration to help them,” said Walker. “It will be a partnership agreement where we both go after state funds in next year’s budget. We feel sure that money will be available because everyone understands what Buc-ee’s does for the entire north Louisiana area and our entire state.”
Walker said city officials are meeting with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development next week to continue discussions.
“There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place,” said Walker.
The city of Ruston is paying for the water, sewer and electricity that will service the entire 82-acre plot. It will be paid for with tax incremental district (TID) funds.
“We are building out for the entire footprint instead of just the travel center,” said Walker. “The road and the infrastructure will take care of Phase 1.”
Walker said the timeline for the opening of Buc-ee’s will fall within 2025, but wasn’t comfortable narrowing that timeline within the 12-month window.
“This is basically what we said from the beginning,” said Walker. “There are simply some things like the traffic study that have to be completed before you will start to see some real movement.”