BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - DOTD revealed a plan to expand I-10 in hopes of reducing traffic tie-ups in the Baton Rouge area.
The proposal, which is in its early stages and comes after extensive research, includes adding a new lane to I-10 on both sides of the bridge. On the East Baton Rouge side, the additional lane would extend from the bridge to the I-10/I-12 split.
Current estimates put the cost of the project, which is still years away, at $350 million.
At a meeting Monday where DOTD revealed the plans and opened them to public review, some residents praised the proposal.
"Definitely where the interstate goes down to one lane, the only way to solve that is with an extra lane," said Thomas Montz, who described Baton Rouge traffic as "painful."
Traffic is consistently a problem in the Baton Rouge area, particularly around the bridge.
Leaders said the impact of the delays is more than just an annoyance for residents. It could have a negative impact on economic development, especially with projections suggesting traffic will get worse in the years ahead.
"Why would you sit in an hour long traffic when you could be earning an income?" said Tom Yura, a site general manager with the BASF Corporation.
"It's going to stunt economic growth if people can't get from point A to point B," said DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas.
DOTD's proposal has been met with concern from some local leaders, who fear that the expansion could put an end to some construction projects and force some businesses to close, particularly in the Perkins Road area. DOTD denies that claim, saying the roadway expansions may impact one to three businesses at most.
"The impacts are not as much as people are perceiving them to be," LeBas said.
EBR Parish Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she came to the meeting concerned, fearing that expanding the interstate may force certain development project in her district to be brought to a halt.
"It actually looks promising, it doesn't have a significant impact where its taking houses and land, and things of that sort," said Wicker, who explained she was relieved by what she saw. "If we can add those extra lanes without having a negative impact on the community, for us that's a win-win for everyone."
Not everyone supported the proposal, including bicyclist Mark Martin who suggested that improved mass transit could be an alternative.
"I would like to see people become accustomed to using other forms of transportation," he said.
DOTD leaders stressed that the plan is extremely preliminary and still needs to be modified by engineers.
They also said that many other improvements will need to be made to truly fix the traffic problem. A new bridge across the Mississippi is still on the table, for instance.
"The proposals we are making tonight are not the cure-all to the traffic problems in the Baton Rouge area," LeBas said.
In addition to the roadway expansion, the proposal from Monday also includes the addition of walls to block out noise as well as aesthetic improvements to the bridge over LSU lakes.
DOTD is holding two additional meetings to allow public to provide feedback to the proposal:
Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015
6 - 8:00 p.m.
West Baton Rouge Community Center
749 N. Jefferson Avenue
Port Allen, LA 70767
Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015
6 - 8:00 p.m.
Crowne Plaza Hotel Ballroom
4728 Constitution Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808