The development of England Airpark, one of Central Louisiana's premier assets, continues to improve in ways big and small. The latest upgrade -- a traffic circle -- is small, but it makes the point.
The just-opened circle, or roundabout, replaces the traditional intersection at England and Vandenburg drives, and does so with style and foresight.
When the landscaping is complete, the circle will complement the airpark community's shining centerpiece, Alexandria International Airport, as well as significant surrounding development. This includes the 208-acre championship Oak Wing Golf Course, England Oaks retirement community, Parc England boutique hotel and adjacent Bistro on the Bayou restaurant, Learning Center for Rapides Parish and more.
The circle takes over as the pivot point for all kinds of traffic -- headed to and from the commercial and industrial complex, the airport itself, vital U.S. Army assets and, increasingly, to and from private enterprise.
Likewise, the circle is a connector for increasing levels of traffic running between Interstate 49 and La. Highway 28 West and to and from Fort Polk and its Joint Readiness Training Center. Indeed, the new circle replaces an old intersection that was designed for a very different mission -- handling on-post traffic at the former England Air Force Base -- and the upgrade reflects larger plans to rethink how best to direct industrial, office, commercial and military traffic. The importance of doing that grows as traffic does every year and as the airpark grows by leveraging its access to rail sites and waterway distribution, benefiting from regional highway improvements, and taking on new missions.
The two most important of the latter are both significant and strategic:
The airpark's increased collaboration with the Army, which recently invested more than $60 million in the facility's role as a "power projection platform" and an intermediate staging base. uAnd, the state's designation of the airpark as a disaster relief site area because of its capabilities related to coordinating aircraft and traffic, staging troops and support personnel, and serving as an effective command center for civilian and military response teams.
While the new traffic circle is a comparatively small improvement, it says something important about England Airpark.