WALKER — As construction of a pair of roundabouts at the Interstate 12 ramps in Walker gets underway, state transportation officials are seeking public input on a proposal to add more of the circular intersections along the city’s commercial corridor.
The proposal’s two options would use roundabouts, U-turns and concrete medians to increase safety and improve traffic flow along the 10.2-mile stretch of highway between Burgess Avenue and La. 16 at Port Vincent, according to information presented Thursday at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center.
The first option would place roundabouts at Burgess Avenue, U.S. 190, Fern Street/Aydell Lane, Stine home improvement store, Wal-Mart/Winn-Dixie, O’Donovan Boulevard at Our Lady of the Lake hospital, Buddy Ellis Road and La. 16.
The second option would have fewer roundabouts, omitting those at Wal-Mart/Winn-Dixie, Stine and Fern Street/Aydell Lane.
Instead, those intersections and several others would become RCUTs, or restricted crossing U-turns, in which side-street traffic seeking to turn left must first turn right onto the highway, then make a U-turn.
Highway traffic could still make left turns at those intersections.
Three more RCUTs would be located between Cambre Lane and Revival Temple and another one at Pendarvis Lane, according to a set of concept drawings presented Thursday by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, the engineering firm selected to perform the environmental assessment.
Both options would include partial cloverleaf ramps at I-12, in addition to the roundabouts currently under construction, and a widening of the I-12 overpass, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
Local officials have been skeptical of the proposal since initial designs were first put out for public comment in December 2013.
Mayor Rick Ramsey has openly opposed the first option, saying six roundabouts within the 1.5-mile commercial corridor north of the interstate would be devastating for businesses.
Ramsey also has questioned whether any of the roundabouts, including those at the I-12 ramps, will relieve congestion if the two-lane overpass is not widened first.
Parish Councilman Scooter Keen said Thursday that even though the improvements will come in phases, he expects business at his dry cleaning shop to suffer during construction.
“I think it will absolutely kill business for a while, just like it did when they widened the road,” he said.
However, Keen said he no longer opposes the project like he did when he first heard about it.
“In this age of distracted driving, with everyone looking at a cellphone, (roundabouts) are almost necessary evils to slow people down,” Keen said. “I wasn’t for them initially, but my wife, who grew up in New Orleans, kept telling me they work so well, and I’ve come around to it.”
Gerald Burns, a member of the parish’s Planning Commission, said he, too, has changed his mind about roundabouts.
“My initial reaction was not to like them,” Burns said. “But my wife and I travel a lot, and you see them in lots of places. You get used to them.”
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