Better Block BR takes steps to make Perkins Rd. pedestrian-friendly

Published: Apr. 22, 2016 at 12:23 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2017 at 6:28 PM CDT
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Volunteers from Perkins Rd. cleanup (Source: Better Block BR)
Volunteers from Perkins Rd. cleanup (Source: Better Block BR)
Left: Before, Right: After clean up of underpath (Source: Better Blocks BR)
Left: Before, Right: After clean up of underpath (Source: Better Blocks BR)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Perkins Rd. has witnessed a major business makeover in recent years. But more business means an increase in traffic, making the area less pedestrian-friendly.

Better Block BR hopes to show the public an alternative for the area by staging a temporary two-day demonstration in the area around the Perkins Rd. overpass. It will take place Saturday, April 23 and 24.

"The demonstration will transform 2 blocks of Perkins Road into a more pedestrian-friendly destination, including landscaping, parking, crosswalks, interactive artwork, and a pop-up park created by BREC," officials with Better Block BR said in a press release. "Merchants between Christian St. and Ferndale Ave. are participating and activities are planned throughout the weekend."

The initiative is supported by the Mayor's office and the City of Baton Rouge's Office of Transportation and Drainage. Representatives and volunteers from those agencies participated in a cleanup event on Saturday, April 16 to get ready for the big day.

"More than 100 local volunteers from across Baton Rouge turned out in force, picking up trash, mowing grass, and removing brush around the Perkins Overpass area, in preparation for the upcoming weekend's Better Block demonstration," officials said. "More than 60 student volunteers from LSU's city-wide "GEAUX Big" volunteer day were joined by members of Varsity Sports' Running Club, City Year Baton Rouge, Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS, residents of the adjacent Poets Corner neighborhood, and other community volunteers, totaling more than 100 Baton Rouge residents."

The space below the overpass was given extra attention because a path under the bridge is ideal for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely move from the residential portion of Perkins to visit neighboring businesses.

"The path is great for both bicyclists and pedestrians because it keeps them off the Perkins Road overpass, which is narrow, high speed, and almost blind over the crest and around the curve," says Mika Torkkola, board member of the non-profit organization Bike Baton Rouge. "Even the sidewalk on the overpass is narrow and unpleasant to use. The path underneath lets you avoid all of that and is a much shorter alternative than going around the lakes - a route that would probably see you have to ride on Perkins anyway."

Unfortunately, that area was a mess.

"The 'underpass' area beneath I-10, which was home to discarded furniture, trash, and overgrown vegetation, got a major facelift," Better Blocks BR said. "Making this area accessible and safe for pedestrian and bike traffic was of particular interest to area neighbors and road users alike, who do not feel safe accessing Perkins Road via the Overpass itself."

The freshly cleaned underpass path is already being utilized and Better Block BR hopes to show people its potential during the demonstration.

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