ADDIS — Chuck Blair and David Bergeron say they’re ready to see action instead of more talk from state transportation leaders about feasibility studies to end the daily traffic nightmares between West and East Baton Rouge parishes.
Nevertheless, the two were among the 70 people who turned out Wednesday night as state Department of Transportation and Development officials discussed proposals to address the traffic woes along the Interstate 10 corridor in the Baton Rouge region.
“If they would take some of the money they’ve spent on studying traffic and actually done something, we might not have the problems we have now,” Blair said.
“We’ve been coming to these meetings for the past 10 to 15 years,” Bergeron said. “West Baton Rouge Parish has been asking DOTD to do something about traffic since the 1980s.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the final in DOTD’s second round of public hearings focusing on I-10 corridor improvements from Essen Lane in Baton Rouge to La. 415 in West Baton Rouge Parish. Two other public meetings already were held in Baton Rouge last month.
During the state’s first round of meetings last fall, residents and elected officials on the west side of the Mississippi River expressed their desire to see construction of a new bridge across the river, south of the I-10 structure.
And their desires haven’t changed any, despite the $1 billion cost estimate state officials say makes such a project nearly impossible right now.
“We need a bridge south of the (Intracoastal Waterway Bridge),” said Kathryn Campesi, who lives in White Castle. “A new bridge should have been built decades ago. Now the state is in financial trouble.
“They should have set the money aside to do it when they had the money and we weren’t in the current situation we’re in now,” she added.
At the very least, Campesi was hoping the state would bring back the White Castle ferry to give drivers another path to East Baton Rouge.
DOTD ended the White Castle ferry service in June 2013 as a cost-cutting measure. Reinstating ferry service wasn’t one of the solutions state transportation leaders listed in their presentation Wednesday.
Instead, transportation officials concentrated much of their discussion on the I-10 widening project, along with several other interchange proposals along the thoroughfare that DOTD Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda described as the most feasible and cheaper options to alleviate the region’s growing traffic problems.
The I-10 widening plan would add a lane in each direction between the I-10 Mississippi River bridge and the I-10/12 split at a cost of up to $350 million. The project is in the planning stage and a feasibility study is being prepared.
State officials already have said most of the plan could be done within the existing rights of way along the interstate. And Kalivoda said drivers could see construction begin within two years once funding is secured.
DOTD also rolled out a number of alternative interchange improvements that include proposed changes to the Washington Street exit and La. 415 and La. 1 in West Baton Rouge Parish.
The daily I-10 traffic causes bumper-to-bumper delays along La. 1 in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Bergeron, who lives between Brusly and Addis, says he sees traffic congestion stretching 2 miles along La. 1 on a daily basis when he looks out the front window of his home.
“All my kids and siblings live in Port Allen, and I can’t go visit them because I’m not going to sit in all that traffic all afternoon,” he said.
Much of that increased traffic is due to industrial expansions in West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.
The three proposed improvements DOTD presented Wednesday night are designed to redirect much of I-10’s truck traffic off the interstate and through West Baton Rouge on a new connector route between La. 415 and La. 1.
“A new bridge wouldn’t fix all the problems on I-10,” Kalivoda said in an interview before the meeting. “This I-10 widening proposal is something that has a more modest cost and can be built out in phases.”
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