Ruston, Louisiana, located in the north central portion of the state, is creating opportunities and growth through various means of connectivity. Ruston is already very accessible due to our location in relation to national markets. The City of Ruston sits at the intersections of Interstate 20 and Highways 167 and 33. Interstate 20 connects Dallas, TX to Atlanta, GA. Highway 167 connects Alexandria, LA to Little Rock, AR, and Highway 33 connects Ruston to the Louisiana/Arkansas border. The Kansas City Southern Meridian Speedway rail line also runs through the heart of Ruston directly connecting Shreveport, LA to Meridian, MS.
Ruston has also increased the speed and connectivity in which our local businesses can access the global marketplace. The City owns a 30+ mile fiber network that offers up to 10 Gbps which translates into higher speed, higher capacity, and greater reliability of data access. This system has significant commercial value and is a substantial competitive advantage for businesses in need of high quality data transfer. This fiber network is offered to commercial businesses throughout Ruston and has significantly and positively impacted their business.
Not satisfied with the status quo, when Ronny Walker took the oath of the Mayor’s office in January 2015, he made a vow to improve aging infrastructure, to further improve Ruston’s quality of life, and to improve and expand Ruston’s connectivity. In January 2016 he put that plan into action. Mayor Walker provided his vision for the future of Ruston that would be put into place over the next twenty (20) years, which included a number of critical infrastructure improvements. The vision was called Moving Ruston Forward (MRF). The proposed improvements consisted of water and sewer upgrades, road infrastructure improvements, walking and biking trails, economic development projects, and a regional sports complex. The cost for these projects totaled over $90 million, which could only be funded by adding an additional revenue source. Mayor Walker asked the Ruston citizens to support a 3/4 cent sales tax that would be used solely to fund the Moving Ruston Forward projects. In April 2016 the citizens of Ruston voted 69% to approve the additional sales tax.
While all of the proposed projects will have an enormous impact on the citizens of Ruston, there is one project that the Mayor is particularly excited about – the walking and biking trails. The primary trail is being developed along the former railroad right-of-way running north-south through Ruston and Lincoln Parish. It has been hailed as the Rock Island Greenway, named after the now obsolete rail line. The Rock Island Greenway (Greenway) will convert the abandoned railroad right of way to a shared-use path and linear park running 6 miles through the city, connecting residential areas, Ruston’s downtown commercial core, Louisiana Tech University, and wooded natural settings. The trail will connect Ruston from the northern city limit to the southern city limit. To assist with the costs, Ruston applied for and received multiple grants including two $1 million grants each from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Lincoln Health Foundation to assist in expanding the trail and to build connector sidewalks.
network of open spaces with passive and active recreation opportunities. The open space network will be serviced by an interconnected network of sidewalks, trails and paths for pedestrians and bicyclists alike, providing desired amenities and facilities for residents and visitors to Ruston. This 6-mile trail will be completed in four (4) phases and will dramatically improve community health by establishing unprecedented opportunities for physical activity and active transportation. Construction was recently completed on phase 1, or one mile, of the first shared-use path in the region, which will be the centerpiece of Ruston's new bicycle/pedestrian network.
This shared-use path will establish direct connectivity between neighborhoods, businesses, parks, grade schools, Delta Community College, Louisiana Center for the Blind, and Louisiana Tech University. The Greenway also greatly expands access to healthcare, jobs, social support services, cultural centers, and recreation. The Greenway represents a starting block for a city-wide trail system that will improve the quality of life for our entire community.
As a direct result of the Rock Island Greenway walking and biking trail, a new student housing development is coming to Ruston. The Developer had two primary criteria that had to be met in order to consider building in a community: 1) the development must be in close proximity to a college or university, and 2) it had to be located on a pedestrian path. The City of Ruston was able to find property for the Developer less than 0.25 miles from the Louisiana Tech University campus and directly adjacent to phase 2 of the Greenway. The Developer will break ground this fall.
The Rock Island Greenway will continue to enhance quality of life, generate new municipal revenue thanks to increased investment around the Greenway, and promote infill development in the core of the city that will ultimately yield more interest in active transportation and reduce the need for driving. Investment in the Greenway also offers a chance to introduce a new population to the benefits of traveling by bike and to provide an example worthy of emulation in similar places across the region and the country. It is this administration's belief that by establishing fun, accessible, healthy, and economical ways to travel around town, the city can utilize resources to address other community challenges.
The citizens of Ruston have been very involved and extremely supportive of the entire Moving Ruston Forward initiative from the beginning. The MRF projects and increased connectivity will improve the quality of life for all of our residents and encourage guests to visit Ruston. It shows those looking at our city that we are progressive and willing to take care of our needs locally. It also demonstrates that our citizens care deeply for our city and want to ensure that Ruston is well prepared to handle continued growth and to cultivate the quality of life for future generations. We invite all to visit Ruston and learn why Excellence is Made Here.