BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Drivers commuting through Baton Rouge and some surrounding parishes during the middle of the day are bound to get caught in a traffic jam. Some have expressed irritation at seemingly slow progress from the government to address issues causing the delays.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has noticed. Now, the wheels of change are moving. DOTD has several projects planned to alleviate gridlock in various parts of the Greater Baton Rouge area and surrounding parishes.
An environmental assessment on the I-10 expansion project revealed the state would have to buy out a few businesses and homes to make the 3.5-mile expansion project happen. Lanes will be added in both directions, hopefully making that Monday morning commute easier.
The state says construction will start on Acadian Thruway and finish up at the 10/12 split to the Mississippi River Bridge. It’s a big chore that will cost $360 million and could take up to 10 years to complete.
“It’s kind of like changing a tire while you’re still driving... it’s very, very difficult. For us to say we’re going to get through this whole project in five to seven years is unrealistic because we want to do it right,” said DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson when the state outlined the I-10 expansion plans.
Speaking of long-term projects, let’s talk about the Mississippi River Bridge. The state realized it’s time for a new bridge, but DOTD leaders just can’t toss one where they see fit; it’s got to make sense. That’s where the consulting firms come in. According to the Baton Rouge Business Report, three consulting firm finalists were interviewed in December of 2019.
The Capital Area Road and Bridge District (CARB-D) is tasked with figuring out how to make this new crossing a reality. The chairman of that group, Senator Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, says finding a location could take 18 months. He says it’s too early to give a realistic timeline for the project to break ground, but estimates it could take seven to ten years to complete.
“It’s almost a crisis situation that we get something done,” said Senator Ward during the first CARB-D meeting.
The state has already set aside $5 million for the project.
Another project in the works to ease traffic congestion in West Baton Rouge Parish is the 415 connector. Sen. Ward is one of the authors of HB 578 and helped push the bill along. $700 million of litigation money from the worst oil spill in the United States will go towards the construction.
“We’ve tried for 20 years to get this project funded and it’s finally here,” the senator said.
Once crews break ground, Senator Ward says the connector between LA 415 and LA 1 could be finished in about three years.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome prioritized projects within the MovEBR plan. First on the list are upgrades to traffic signals on dozens of roads, including College Drive. Sidewalks are also considered a top priority.
“For us to make sure that we are doing our due diligence and for us to make sure that the citizens are getting what they are paying for, I think they will be very pleased with the prioritization but not only that, the thoroughness of what we did,” says Mayor-President Broome.
Other road enhancement projects throughout the parish could begin anywhere within the next 24 to 36 months.