City-parish officials on Monday marked the start of a $21.6 million project to widen East Pont des Mouton Road between Louisiana Avenue and Interstate 49, one the biggest projects for north Lafayette in recent years and a road that has seen traffic rise significantly over the past two decades.

The project, not to be completed until 2016, involves widening the two-lane road to a four-lane boulevard in some sections and a five-lane roadway in others.

“It’s a good artery for everybody on this side of town to use,” City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille said.

The $21.6 million price tag includes drainage improvements, lighting and sidewalks.

Castille said the addition of new sidewalks in the area is welcome and will allow residents to safely walk to and from the George Dupuis Recreation Center and adjacent Brown Memorial Park on East Pont des Mouton.

The 1.3-mile stretch of Pont des Mouton between I-49 and Louisiana Avenue saw its average daily traffic count grow from about 2,700 in 1997 to about 12,600 in 2012, according to the state Department of Transportation and Development.

“At one time, it was really sort of a country road for us,” City-Parish President Joey Durel said.

Durel said newly widened traffic corridors like East Pont des Mouton are critical in helping Lafayette handle the estimated 90,000 new residents that city-parish consultants project will be added to parish’s population by 2030.

“It is called connectivity. It’s giving people alternate routes,” Durel said. “We’ve got to find a way to spread that traffic out.”

The East Pont des Mouton project ties in to two other major north Lafayette road projects — the extension of Louisiana Avenue and the widening of West Pont des Mouton, which runs from I-49 to University Avenue.

The work to push Louisiana Avenue into north Lafayette began in the 1980s.

The four-lane now ends at Butcher Switch Road, and plans call for extending it to Gloria Switch Road near the Carencro city limits.

West Pont des Mouton was widened from a two-lane to four-lane road in 2007, and that stretch has seen two major developments.

Halliburton opened a 200,000-square-foot plant on a 40-acre site on West Pont des Mouton in 2012.

The next year, the first homes began going up at Couret Farms, a 125-acre residential and commercial development off West Pont des Mouton created by the same team behind River Ranch in Lafayette and Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville.

Couret Farms has been a big bright spot in the real estate market north of Interstate 10 — the only development in north Lafayette to make it into the top 20 list for new construction sales this year, according to a midyear real estate market report from Coldwell Banker.

Another planned road project in the area will extend North St. Antoine Street from Interstate 10 to West Pont des Mouton.

City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard said right-of-way and design details are still being worked out for that route, and no firm start date has been set.

East Pont des Mouton and other projects in the area are needed to accommodate the strong upward growth trend in the northern part of the parish, said Jan Swift, executive director of the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation.

“The growth pattern necessitates it,” she said. “I just think to plan ahead is a wise investment.”