Some drivers blame St. George-Baton Rouge battle for road project delay

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Work on a construction project that should be widening a major roadway has stopped and some who live in the area wonder if the political battle between St. George and Baton Rouge is to blame.

Jones Creek Road between Tiger Bend Road and Coursey Boulevard is slated to be widened to five lanes. The plan expands the roadway to two lanes in each direction, with a turning lane in the middle. Some people who drive that stretch want to why it's taking so long to finish the project. They blame the political battle on the proposed incorporation of St. George.

"St. George issue popped up, the construction stopped, and it's like they're waiting to see what the vote is going to be," said Randall Phillips, who now avoids driving Jones Creek Road. "We go back through subdivisions to avoid tearing our cars up on this road it's so bad."

Bryan Harmon, the interim director of East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works, disputed that idea. He gave several of the recent projects in the southeast part of the parish as examples.

"There is such a need in the parish for highway improvements and this area of the parish is one of the ones that had grown over the past 20, 30, 40 years," Harmon said. "This area of the parish is probably getting at least half of all the major projects that were approved."

Harmon added the project was broken into two phases - the "clearing and grubbing" phase, as it's called, and the actual construction. The "clearing and grubbing" started in September 2012 when the right of ways were cleared of trees and utilities.

Harmon stated the project is 80 percent funded by a federal program, which is why the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is bidding out the project. Officials first put the project out for bids in February 2013, but Harmon said when DPW rejected all bids, the second lowest bidder filed suit challenging DPW's authority to do so. He said they could not bid the project out until the suit was resolved.

Earlier this year, that suit was resolved. Harmon said later this year, they expect to re-bid the project out and hope to begin the widening of Jones Creek Road by early next spring.

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