Central Thruway opens to traffic

CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - It's been under construction since 2007, and as of Thursday morning, the Central Thruway is now open for drivers.

The road project has been called the most complex project in East Baton Rouge Parish. The man who first had the vision for the roadway calls the opening the best thing to happen to Central in a long time.

Former Metro Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Joe Greco says more than 20 years he tried to get the project going. Greco says after moving to Central, the area flooded and residents were left with only one way out. At the ribbon cutting, he finally saw what his determination developed.

Most who ride the four miles on the new roadway will notice it's a more convenient way to get from Sullivan Road to Florida Boulevard. But the $64.5 million project represents more for the man known as the father of the Central Thruway.

"I moved to Central, everything was flooding," said Greco. "[I] couldn't get out. I said we had to build some kind of road to get out."

But because of the size and cost of the project, it never happened, until now.

Mayor-President Kip Holden says the project has been badly needed for some time.

Heavy rains cause flooding on sections of Greenwell Springs Road, forcing residents to all travel in one direction, taking some 25 miles out of the way to reach Baton Rouge.

"The only way out was to go north through Zachary. That's the only way out," said the mayor of Central, Mac Watts.

The thruway not gives residents there another travel plan.

Following Thursday's ribbon cutting, Greco was a passenger in the second car on the new road. Mayor Holden was the first. But for Greco, it's the name on one of the new bridges on the four-mile stretch that has more meaning than all the concrete.

"The only person that's missing is my wife...wish she was here," Greco said through tears.

Joe Greco's wife, Joan, died in 2007 from cancer. Many remember she worked behind the scenes with her husband to take the thruway from dream to reality. The Joan R. Greco Memorial Bridge is named in her honor.

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