BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A lot has changed at the Louisiana State Capitol since 1932 when the building was completed, but for a while security had not. In 2008, lawmakers decided that was a problem. Seven years, several studies and millions of dollars later, a security upgrade is finally a reality.
"If we're going to invite people to this beautiful place to visit this magnificent building we want to make sure they're safe," said Clarence Russ, Chief Sergeant at Arms for the House of Representatives.
The upgrades started with a subtle addition of new cameras inside and out at a cost of around $300,000, according to the Division of Administration. Big changes of limiting traffic around the building itself were made last summer in order to cut security risks.
"When you go through all the analysis of what could possibly happen, before the bollards, anyone could ride up in any type of vehicle and park along the way," said Russ.
Probably the most talked about security upgrade came out of that phase of the project. Security bollards in the parking lot limit who can park by the building. A keycard is used to trigger the bollards lowering, and they raise once a vehicle passes. While they do restrict the traffic in and out, they've also caused some major headaches, ensnaring 14 vehicles, according to Louisiana State Police.
Staff said only two of those incidents may have been caused by equipment malfunctions. The rest reportedly result from drivers adjusting to the new system.
The total parking and traffic upgrades cost $4.9 million, according to the Division of Administration. Headaches or not, the folks overseeing the projects said it is all in an effort to keep the State Capitol's many occupants and visitors safe.
"This is a great project for the Capitol itself. It provides additional security. It also provides enhancements for the visitors as well as the motorists that traveling to and from the Capitol," said Mark Moses, Director of Facility Planning and Control.
The final phase is road work in Arsenal Park. Crews are currently adding a roundabout and turning the one-way roads into two-way roads. Moses said that will help ease traffic and re-striping will add parking.
Moses said that part of the project will cost a little less than $1.4 million and should wrap up in January.