East Baton Rouge set to receive $71M in state credits for road projects

East Baton Rouge set to receive $71M in state credits for road projects
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Under an agreement with the state, East Baton Rouge Parish is set to receive millions of dollars in credits from the state for road improvements across the parish.

In exchange for $71 million, the parish will also take control of nearly 100 miles of road currently overseen by DOTD.

"These are fairly short segments from the standpoint of DOTD, but they are integral parts of our city system - they tie-in well with our city system," said Stephen Bonnette, the director of the Department of Transportation and Drainage in EBR.

The list of roads set to be handed over to the parish is a long one. It includes portions of River Road, Nicholson, Highland, Burbank, Gardere, Bluebonnet, Perkins, Jefferson Highway, Old Jefferson Highway, Siegen, Acadian Thruway, Drusilla, O'Neal, Old Hammond, Chippewa, Scenic Highway, 22nd Street, Plank Road, Joor Road, Liberty Road, Thomas Road, East Mt. Pleasant-Zachary Road, and Old Scenic Highway.

Several years ago, DOTD began working to cut back on their portfolio of roads, concentrating on major interstates rather than local streets.

"The state owns like 27 percent of the roads. When you look at what other states own, its 19 percent," said Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for DOTD.

Bonnette said the transfer will be beneficial for the parish. He said it will allow them to have control over signage on the arteries, as well as the ability to line traffic signals. Additionally, he said it will allow them to be more responsive.

"A lot of times we'll get a call about a drainage issue on a state highway and we'll have to refer them to DOTD, and that's frustrating for the average citizen because they think it's a city street," Bonnette said.

These transfers will not happen overnight, however. Before the state gives up control, they first need to repair the roads, which is a process that can take years.

Back in 2014, for example, EBR participated in a smaller transfer. Included in that agreed-upon swap was Government Street. The street will not be handed over to the parish until the so-called "Road Diet" project is completed, which includes modifying the traffic lanes.

That project has seen repeated delays and Bonnette said construction will likely not begin until at least next summer.

One the roads are transferred, the parish is in charge of maintenance, which brings a separate set of expenses. Bonnette said he hopes that, with the repairs the state is doing, the parish will not have to worry about big fixes for a few decades.

As for the $71 million in credits from the state, the primary goals of parish leaders are road improvements around the Water Campus and along Nicholson Drive. The credits may also be used to help fund the new Nicholson Streetcar.

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