US 190 is not a major east-west thoroughfare by any stretch—-its infrastructural importance is more used-ta-be since I-10 came along in the 60s/70s; today, the road serves more local  traffic than it does  regional or interstate travel.

I’ve traveled this highway across south Louisiana and into eastern Texas several times in recent years.  As an old-school thoroughfare, 190 rarely features high-speed by-passes around the centers of most small towns and cities.  Travelers must be alert to slow down to the posted limits as they transition from the open highway to the outskirts and ultimately to down town with what often seems to be an interminable series of traffic signals.

From Huntsville across eastern Texas through Livingston, Woodville, and Jasper, the highway crosses into Louisiana where it cuts through DeRidder, Kinder, Elton, Basile, Eunice and on to Opelousas and Baton Rouge beyond.  Once aross the River at Baton Rouge, 190 loses its regional relevance as the parallel I-12 corridor makes the highway insignificant as a throughfare until it ends just outside of Slidell.

Many of the wide spots, villages, small towns and cities along the route are notable for  their provinciality, local cop speed traps, lack of scenery, pot-holed streets, and irritating slow-downs; however, in my experience,  one town surpasses all the others in its recognition as the worst through-route in the region: Opelousas, Louisiana.

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One of the irritating traffic signals where congested traffic struggles to creep its way through the center of town.

The passage through Opelousas is loooooooong, over four miles from west to east (or vice versa).  Speed limits gradually descend from 50 to 40 to 30 to a syrupy 25, grinding through a block-to-block series of downtown traffic lights in traffic that’s usually moderate-to-heavy.  Traffic never flows through downtown Opelousas—-more accurately, it lurches from block to block, light to light.

And, the street surfaces are ridden with pot-holes and uneven surfaces.  The violent pitching of a bucking-bronco ride comes to mind as I imagine a comparable experience to driving on the ill-maintained streets.

And you’d better not go over the limit in those 25 or 30 mph zones: OPD is ever-vigilant to entrap  the careless!

Finally, the passage through Opelousas from beginning to end is visually  unappealing (understatement?).  From one end of town to the other, rusting warehouses,  derelict buildings, decadent homes, and blighted lots crowd the constricted rights-of-way of the narrow thoroughfare.  Even the stateliness of the Parish courthouse and a handful of well-restored Victorian homeplaces along the route cannot atone for the overwhelming homeliness of declining parts of town.

So, I jokingly (and lovingly, because it’s close to home) refer to Opelousas’s downtown passage as “Sloppa-lousas.”  It’s city limits-to-city limits passage provides a throw-back experience from a bygone era of motor travel.  And, as most travelers would observe at the end of the experience, the only thing good about the good old days of motor travel is that they’re gone.  Unfortunately, Highway 190 through Opelousas did not go with them, but rather stayed behind to decay along with its tedious route through the old-timey center of town.

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