Port Allen City Council makes new calls to cut back on traffic in Baton Rouge

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - The Port Allen City Council joined other area leaders in calling on the federal government to speed up the process of improving infrastructure in the Baton Rouge area.

Traffic and congestion on the roads is an ongoing problem in the Baton Rouge area, particularly around the I-10 Bridge.

"When you leave in the morning, you better bring your lunch with you," said Betty Payne, who lives in Port Allen.

One possible solution the problem that has been in discussion for years is building a new bridge across the Mississippi River. The bridge would be south of the I-10 bridge, which was built more than 40 years ago.

Current projections are that it could take at least 14 years for a new bridge, provided the project gets a green light at all.

Barry Hugghins, a councilman in West Baton Rouge Parish, said that is too long.

"In 14 years, we'll be in total gridlock," said Hugghins. "Here we are on the cusp of an absolute industrial renaissance in South Louisiana and we're not going to be able to enjoy because nobody's going to be able to get to work or ship their product."

Local leaders say part o the problem is traffic studies by the Department of Transportation and Development, which take years to complete before any action is taken.

"The process does not take into account that demographics change, economics change, and industrial development changes faster than this process can accommodate," Hugghins said.

Port Allen councilman Hugh Riviere is spearheading the resolution to the federal government. His goal is to spread out traffic and eliminate backups, preferably in fewer than 14 years.

"It's a nightmare," said Riviere. "I'm hoping if we can get this going, get the traction, we can speed this process up."

Money for highways in part comes from the federal government. The state then decides how to allocate that money.

Riviere said he hopes if local governments work together and call on DOTD as one voice, they can maybe convince DOTD to start building something in the area soon.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said he is working on legislation to help speed up the decision making process. He is also working with Louisiana local leaders in their effort to call on DOTD to allocate money to the Capital City.

"We've got to stop building bridges to nowhere, roads that don't make sense. We've got to make sure that this becomes the project for the state of Louisiana," said Graves. "We've got to stop politicizing decisions about highways and how these dollars are going to be spent, we've got to spend them on the true priorities in Louisiana."

DOTD spokesman Rodney Mallett issued a statement:

"We are well aware of the congestion issues along the I-10 corridor from La. 415 to the I-10/-I-12 split. We are currently studying enhancement options to this corridor. In the past, attempts to address a new Mississippi River bridge or improvements along I-10 have been met with public opposition.
"We have asked for input from the public and businesses for the I-10 study to develop alternatives to improve traffic flow while addressing community concerns. One of the major challenges is the funding needed to implement improvements on I-10 and for a new bridge.
"The studies are required by federal law and gathers data on the impacts on communities, the environment, safety and traffic as well as to gather public comments. We are talking about millions if not billions of dollars being spent and you need to make sure it's done right, with minimal impacts." 

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