‘Not going to allow distraction to slow it down’ - DOTD secretary looking to squash falsehoods surrounding I-10 widening project

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is moving forward with a massive project that has been proposed since the 1990′s, the I-10 widening.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is moving forward with a massive project that has been proposed since the 1990′s, the I-10 widening project.

Officials with DOTD say the estimated $600 million cost of the project will be worth it in the long run, because traffic is already bad enough.

And if this project does not get going on schedule, traffic in Baton Rouge will never improve.

“We’re not going to allow distraction to slow it down, to put us back in a place of uncertainty, when we’ve made a decision, we’ve made the financial investment, and we’ve got the public’s input,” said Dr. Shawn Wilson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson is looking to squash what he’s calling false-hoods concerning the massive I-10 widening project.

“We are going to deliver something for the state of Louisiana that we’ve talked about for the last 25 to 30 years, that’s a new place to be,” said Dr. Wilson.

He says the decision has already been made to move forward with the project, which in the long run looks to improve the I-10 / I-110 merge and widen I-10 from the Mississippi River Bridge past Acadian.

“And so when you look at a project of this magnitude, something that’s going to cost this much, under traffic, 80 plus thousand cars a day, and you’re talking about 4 years of construction, I’m impressed. This is something that you don’t see the Department of Transportation do just about anywhere, let alone here in Louisiana. So we have evolved, we have changed, and we’ve developed the most modern procurement practices that will extract the best value out of this project, and that’s what we’re proud to deliver,” said Dr. Shawn Wilson.

But some folks still aren’t buying all that’s being sold.

A number of advocacy groups held a meeting at the River Branch Library to discuss their concerns about the plans.

“I think this project if it’s not put on hold and re-evaluated on a fundamental level, is going to be a disaster for the citizens of Baton Rouge,” said Chris Alexander, with Louisiana Citizen Advocacy Group.

The people here are worried about the total cost of the project, its impact on businesses, evacuation routes, lane closures during construction starting in 2024, and more.

“Well, it’s the traffic and how much they’re going to clog up. I mean the traffic is bad now, what’s it going to be when they start construction,” said Cecil Cavanaugh, the chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Chamber of Commerce.

In 2024 construction will force a lane closure at the westbound flyover ramp at the I-10/I-110 interchange for 14 months.

But DOTD officials say they’re doing everything they can to help you avoid the mess.

“That 14 months it’s going to be a pinch point. and we’re taking measures to address that pinch point We’re going to be advising drivers as far west as Lafayette and Opelousas, as far east as Hammond to take alternate routes. We’re reconfiguring signals and intersections to maximize throughput. And we’re working to create a four-day work week here at the department and other state agencies. As well as working with the entire industrial corridor to prepare them for what’s going to happen at that time. It’s going to be a pinch point. We know traffic is already unacceptable. But in order to get to that point of having more capacity, better throughput, better acceptance, and a better community as a result of this project, that’s what it’s going to take to construct it,” said Dr. Wilson.

Construction is scheduled to officially begin in 2023.

DOTD officials are aiming to complete the project in 4 and a half years.

Check out this video for more facts about the project from DOTD: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3192602404327535

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