WBR frustrated with traffic mayhem

PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - Following this week's crash that resulted in the closure of I-10 in West Baton Rouge Parish, many are wondering why there isn't another bridge to get around in the area.

"We have to change our lifestyle just to try to work around these things and it's something that should have been taken care of long ago," said West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley "Peewee" Berthelot.

Berthelot said it's decades of frustration that's been boiling over. His desktop is live cameras of I-10 over the Horace Wilkinson Bridge (New Bridge).

"We've been talking about these things for 15 to 20 years and we just need to get something done," Berthelot added.

Given Wednesday's deadly wreck that shut down I-10 in both directions, Berthelot said there is no true detour in the parish. Plus, the Intracoastal Bridge at LA 1 was built in the 1960s and several angles on the bridge are cracked, meaning there's a weight restriction sending higher weight loads well out of the way.

"You got to go back into Iberville Parish on Highway 77 and come around Grosse Tete for a bypass and you're looking at 53 miles or if you go on the Sunshine Bridge back to Baton Rouge, it's like 70 miles," Berthelot explained.

"Let's put our money where our mouth is and really invest in infrastructure," said Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson. "That's what it's really going to take."

Wilson admits the congestion on I-10 in West Baton Rouge Parish has progressively gotten worse but added the state does not have the money to get the infrastructure up to par. He added Louisiana ranks as one of the last states in the country to increase the gas tax to help pay for roads and bridges.

"We have two options in the state: We can either invest in transportation and make our system better over time because it's taken 30 years to get to where we are today, so it cannot happen overnight or we can choose to do nothing and it's only going to get worse if that's the case," Wilson explained.

He said the emergency repairs to LA 1 are taking money out of the budget, not to mention the 16,000 miles of roadway and the 12,000 bridges the state is responsible for. While there's no money for a new bridge right now, he said other projects, like the interstate widening, are in the works.

DOTD continues its project of widening the interstate. Officials are in the studies phase right now, which is required. That project, however, is still several years away.

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