BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Government Street has been on a diet for some time now.
“The first thing I did notice was the loss of parking off of Government Street, which is a major concern for me,” said Elvondae Raybon, owner of the Pit-N-Peel on Government Street.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) says the road work, an $11.7 million project, is being worked on in sections so they don’t have to block off a huge part of the road for construction. The project is four miles long and extends from East Boulevard to Lobdell Avenue near Independence Park. The road diet started in May of 2018 and is projected to be complete in two years.
Pit-N-Peel sits right on the corner of construction and traffic chaos.
“Without frontage parking to your facility, you don’t really have clarity of if you’re open or closed,” Raybon said.
Raybon also says he didn’t become alarmed until the work made it to his end of the street.
“Because I know how limited our parking is. I know how limited my access is with the one-way that’s sitting adjacent to our building," said Raybon.
The owner of the crawfish spot says he lost three of his seven parking spots to construction. He’s not saying business is going down, but he can imagine how something like this could hurt.
“Definitely the loss of any parking spaces is going to be a detrimental impact on my business,” Raybon said. “Not being able to access me off of Government Street will pretty much be that dagger.”
The parking situation didn’t stop one Wyoming family from grabbing lunch, but they instantly felt the traffic impact.
“We didn’t see any parking here and we realized we were going to have trouble, so we ended up going down a block and then going around a block,” the customer said.
“It’s always been that route around, but the initial access off of Government Street gave immediacy as far as access and the building,” Raybon said.
Nobody likes fighting traffic or road work, despite the promise of an easier commute in the end.
“It’s going to be bike and pedestrian friendly,” Rodney Mallett with DOTD added. “The sidewalks are going to be new and upgraded.”
The promise for the tens of thousands of you who use Government Street also includes making four lanes: two and adding a turning lane. But this project hasn’t come without a few hiccups.
“They’re digging up, milling that top layer off,” Mallett explained. “So some of that older concrete, when we put the asphalt on, it wouldn’t meet specs to last its lifetime, so what we’re trying to do is pull out all of the old concrete so we can put in the asphalt.”
On top of that, the weather hasn’t been too kind. DOTD says worst case scenario it’ll be 2021 when the road diet is complete.
“If you’re working in an area and it rains and it holds water, you have to pump water out the next day so you can start work. It can lead to significant delays,” Mallett said.
“That’s my only concern, how will it impact me,” Raybon said.
Despite still being concerned, the restaurant owner says he’ll make do for now and hopes the word of his food continues to travel.
DOTD says crews will take full advantage of good weather to make up time to finish the project by the initial deadline of January of 2020. This is a road transfer project, which means once work is complete, the project will be transferred over to the city.