Louisiana leaders unveil statewide interstate improvement projects

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana leaders have announced four major projects aimed at getting traffic moving across the state. One of them involves widening I-10 in both directions, from the Mississippi River Bridge to the I-10/I-12 split.

The Bridge is the backdrop of Baton Rouge. It is recognized by many as a symbol of commerce. But for the estimated 180,000 drivers the state estimates who travel it daily it can be a traffic nightmare. It is why Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he made improving transportation one of his top priorities.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it. This is the stretch of interstate, of highway in Louisiana, that is the most congested and interrupts the flow of commerce more than any other stretch in the state," Edwards said.

The Governor and state transportation leaders announced plans to widen interstate through Baton Rouge to the split while making structural improvements to the 60-year-old bridge. Leaders said it will cost an estimated $350 million, possibly more down the line. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said it and three other projects will be funded through what is known as GARVEE bonds, which will allow the state to repay the debt with federal highway money the state gets each year.

"We want to use these dollars as our commitment to our transportation chairman to leverage as much as we can," Wilson said.

Transportation leaders noted the projects are a regional effort and would not be possible without cooperation from local elected leaders. East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said the city-parish is contributing $1 million a year in state road swap credits for 12 years to help pay for the improvements.

"The bottom line is this, East Baton Rouge Parish and my administration are committed to this project and to alleviating traffic for our residents and businesses," Broome said.

President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber Adam Knapp said the enhancements are more than about convenience and quality of life. He said it is also about positioning the city for the future.

"Transportation and traffic is the number one issue of the Baton Rouge area that is a threat to business community and commerce. It's most critical to moving us forward as a region," Knapp said.

Other projects announced include a new interchange on I-10 in Kenner at Loyola Ave to serve a new airport terminal, a new access from I-20 directly into Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, and up to ten percent partial funding for toll bridges.

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