Property owners on Perkins Road said Wednesday that they want the often-congested thoroughfare to be widened as soon as possible, although they were concerned about the fate of businesses possibly standing in the way.
At an open house, people looked at maps of three proposed designs for the project from Siegen Lane to Highland Road — all of which would turn the two-lane section of Perkins into a four-lane highway divided by a median. Participants also watched an informational presentation and talked to engineers as they circled through Parishioners Hall at St. George Catholic Church.
The first design would add a 16-foot-wide median to the whole roadway; the second would build a median that fluctuates between 16 and 30 feet wide; and the third would include a 30-foot-wide median throughout. The road will have curbs and gutters as opposed to open ditches, and portions of it will likely include sidewalks.
The 30-foot median possibility worried Gerald Johnson and Terry Hodges, who both own properties on Perkins.
“It kills all of these businesses,” said Hodges, pointing to the map displaying the 30-foot median. Hodges owns Logistics Management Resources, which is on the portion of Perkins Road that will be widened.
Johnson owns townhomes on Perkins and said the 30-foot median would put the road in the lap of his units. He said he preferred the 16-foot median, which would least affect businesses along the side of the road.
The design does not include turn lanes, and instead has turnarounds sprinkled along the medians where drivers can make U-turns. Brad Ponder, who works for the city-parish Green Light Plan, said U-turns are safer than turn lanes, where drivers are prone to crash.
But some meeting attendees said the lack of turn lanes will inconvenience larger vehicles, like trucks and buses, and make it impossible for people to turn left out of their subdivisions.
“This would be absolutely horrible,” said Suzanne Crain, a bus driver for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. Crain said she uses the turn lanes to navigate in and out of subdivisions, but will have to turn around over and over again without crossovers.
Carolyn Webber, a Realtor with a business on Perkins, said she wishes construction would begin immediately as she sits in Perkins Road traffic daily.
“You can’t turn left and you can’t hardly turn right,” she said.
But construction on Perkins will not begin for a long time, possibly years. The meeting is only the beginning of the project, which is a joint effort of the state Department of Transportation and Development and city-parish government. A lengthy environmental assessment is still needed, and planners also want to seek federal construction money.
Half of the project is part of the city-parish’s Green Light Plan and will be paid for with taxpayer money, along with likely federal dollars. The other half of the work, from Pecue Lane to Siegen Lane, is a project that state officials later tacked onto the initial plans.
City officials held a similar meeting about the project last year, before it was lengthened.
Representatives from the city-parish Green Light Plan and Stantec, the design consulting firm working on the project, said a favorite design has not emerged yet. They said comments collected at the meeting will influence which design is chosen.