Planners say a proposed new interchange at Interstate 10 and Pecue Lane will ease traffic congestion. But some nearby residents say it will disrupt their lives, regardless of which of the three options for building it are chosen.
The project proposes adding an interchange with exit and entrance ramps for I-10 moving east and west on Pecue Lane in the southwest part of the parish. Pecue Lane also would have a makeover with upgrades like widening the road, adding medians and extending Rieger Road for a new Pecue Lane intersection.
The years-in-the-making interchange project, to be built at a cost of $40 million to $50 million, does not have a construction timeline yet because city planners still need to select a favorite design and pursue federal money to build it.
City-parish Green Light Plan spokesman John Snow said planners should choose a design and bring it back to the public by late summer or early fall, but Baton Rouge residents will not see any construction for at least the next year.
In public comments submitted at the project meetings, residents from the Woodridge neighborhood near the proposed changes weighed in on how the interchange would affect their homes.
Some said they would rather no changes rather than any of the proposed designs because they are afraid a bustling nearby interchange would worsen traffic and make it more difficult to enter and leave their neighborhood.
“Short of having a traffic signal, we don’t think there’s any safe ingress and egress in and out of Woodridge and Briarwood,” said Woodridge Property Owners Association Treasurer Phil Zanco. “I commented that I didn’t really like any of them because they essentially all come way too close to the edge of the subdivision.”
The first design option is the commonly used diamond interchange, similar to the Sherwood Forest Boulevard at Interstate 12 interchange, in which the interstate is elevated to separate it from the minor road.
The diamond interchange received the most comments from members of the public, most of whom complimented the normal simplicity of the traffic pattern and its lack of impact on their property. One commenter referred to it as “old school.”
The second design possibility is a single-point urban interchange, where one set of traffic signals controls all through traffic on the arterial road and the traffic turning left onto or off of the interchange.
The single-point interchange was met with far fewer public comments, and some applauded its efficiency. The design is unlike any nearby interchange and some commenters found it to be confusing. One commenter wrote that it “appears to be more dangerous for drivers, multiple cross overs.”
The third alternative is a diverging diamond interchange, in which traffic briefly moves to the opposite side of the roadway and drivers can take free left turns because they do not cross opposing traffic.
Several commenters also described the design as confusing and possibly risky, with only a couple of people favoring it.
For all three design options, Rieger Road would intersect Pecue Lane about 2,500 feet northeast of the interstate. Drivers could reach the back of Pecue Lane properties from Reiger Road.
Zanco said Woodridge residents also will need to be vigilant as the project moves forward to ensure noise from the possible interchange does not affect their subdivision.
“We don’t want to block progress; we just think that the safety of 400 people in a neighborhood is not being adequately considered,” Zanco said.
The comment period is closed, and Snow said they will consider the public’s thoughts in determining the preferred design.
“Public input is extremely important,” Snow said. “It also has to be weighed in conjunction with engineering perspective and cost perspective.”
Regardless of which design is chosen, city planners say an interchange will reduce congestion on I-10 and reduce delays on the local roads nearby. They also say it will improve access to the new Woman’s Hospital off of Pecue Lane.
The first meeting for the project was in 2010, and a lengthy process is still to come once there’s a public hearing for the chosen design. After that, planners will draw up environmental documents.
The interchange should be a contender for federal dollars because of the drawn-out planning and environmental processes. Tax money voters approved for the city-parish Green Light Plan also will go toward paying for the project.