Could the city's traffic nightmare hurt Louisiana's bright future?

Could the city's traffic nightmare hurt Louisiana's bright future?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One wreck can turn any Baton Rouge interstate into a parking lot and bring traffic around all of the metro area to a complete stop. Drivers have been dealing with it for years, but what if it now takes a hit on the economy?

"We have now achieved as a community record levels of all time employment for the region," said Baton Rouge Area Chamber's Adam Knapp.

Coming off a stellar year, Knapp said 2015 is promising even more job growth in the nine-parish area with high-quality jobs that pay on average, more than $52,000.

"We're going to be enjoying a lot of additional jobs and a lot of opportunities for our citizens, which is a great bit of news, but that also creates restraining factors not only on our infrastructure but on our economic development," said Knapp.

The reason for that? More jobs means more drivers, and we've all been there tapping the brakes, looking at the clock and trying to find a detour all because traffic on the interstates is a mess after a wreck.

"It's not just happening once a week or maybe on a Friday evening. It's everyday. The morning is not quite as bad. The evening is really bad," said West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley Berthelot.

Berthelot said companies like DOW are starting to question if there is a fix to the area's infrastructure problem before they try to expand

"People at Dow and Shintech are telling me they are having trouble getting people to stay on their side of the river," said Berthelot.

The State Department of Transportation and Development, which is responsible for the state and federal roads in Louisiana, already has a $12 billion backlog. Projects that need maintenance, preservation or just roads waiting to be connected are all on hold.

"If we don't do something besides kick the can down the road, that $12 billion backlog will be nothing in comparison to what it will be in 4-5 years," said Rep. Karen St. Germain & chairwoman of the Transportation Funding Task Force.

That's why the Transportation Funding Task Force was created to try to find ways to increase money to spend on Louisiana's infrastructure now and down the road.

If they can't come up with a solution, the national and international attention Baton Rouge is receiving could backfire with companies refusing to call the Capital City home because their employees cannot navigate around.

"If we're going to fix this huge problem, it's like eating an elephant one bite at a time," said Sen. Robert Adley.

The Transportation Task Force is open to suggestions from the public. You are welcome to go to the meetings, but the next one has not been scheduled just yet, or you can contact your legislator to pass on your ideas.

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