BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is not waiting around for road expansion projects to be funded and completed to solve the Capital City's congestion problems.
"We love our cars, but we all hate traffic," said Emanuel Andrews, outreach coordinator for Commuter Krewe of Louisiana. "So the idea is, what do you want to give up?"
With the recent groundbreaking of a project to widen I-10 and other construction projects hanging over the City of Baton Rouge's head, DOTD and the Capital Regional Planning Commission launched a program to curb the estimated traffic woes. "We want to do everything we can to help the motoring public get through it," said Darryl Gissel, chief operating officer for the City of Baton Rouge. "We know it's going to be tough. Infrastructure is needed and the changes are needed, but we know there are going to be pains going through it," he said.
DOTD hosted an event Tuesday morning to announce an alternative plan, the Commuter Krewe of Louisiana. The hope is a quick fix to immediately decrease the number of cars causing the heavy delays: carpooling. "You can sit at any traffic light and count numerous cars with just one individual riding to work or dropping off their kids," Andrews said.
DOTD says roughly 180,000 people travel on I-10 near College Drive on a daily basis. The goal is to encourage drivers to carpool throughout the metro region. DOTD has partnered with several parishes for the program. "If we can reduce the number of individuals riding alone, we can reduce the strain on our infrastructure," said Andrews.
Developers say they're working with businesses to come up with incentives for employees to enroll in this free program. The plan is to get people who work together with similar schedules to enroll, saving time and money in the long run. "We've done some math to show that two individuals with a 35-mile per day commute to work can save around $1,000 just by riding together," Andrews explained.
And for those worried about your ride-sharing partner leaving work early and being stuck with no way home, they've got a solution for that. "The program allows you to call an Uber, Lyft, or a taxi and then we will reimburse you for that," Andrews explained. "We call that our emergency ride home program."
"Part of it is trying to encourage people to change driving habits," Gissel said. "Carpooling is not something that we normally think of in Baton Rouge, but it can save people money and in this case, will save people a lot of time," he said.
"Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and the lack of federal funding, we cannot build new roads or expand all of our interstates as quickly as we'd like," said Dr. Shawn Wilson, secretary of DOTD. "It's imperative that we think outside the box for ways to reduce traffic congestion and to improve mobility by getting more people through the system as it's built today."
Developers say the goal is to get at least 20 percent of employees per work site enrolled to reduce the traffic impact. Officials say several large corporations in the Baton Rouge area are already enrolled in the program, including BASF, DOTD, LSU, Southern University, Associated Grocers, Stantec, CATS, and AmeriHealth Caritas.
Officials say this will be an ongoing program after the road projects are complete in an effort to continue reducing traffic congestion.