PORT ALLEN — The City Council on Wednesday night joined West Baton Rouge leaders in their effort to address the parish’s growing traffic headaches by urging the state’s congressional leaders to find a way for emergency improvements to be made along Interstate 10 and La. 1 in Port Allen.
City Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere called the council’s unanimous action a necessary first step toward solving an issue that could negatively impact the parish’s continued industrial growth.
“If we can get something done in six to eight years, that’s better than nothing,” Riviere said during Wednesday night’s meeting.
The council’s action comes at a time when the state Department of Transportation and Development is conducting its I-10 Corridor Study aimed at determining the feasibility of improvements to the area of the interstate between the Mississippi River bridge and the I-10/Interstate 12 split.
Daily traffic gridlocks along La. 1 near the Intracoastal Waterway and Mississippi River bridge have become such an issue that local industry has modified work schedules in hopes of cutting commute times for disgruntled employees.
The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board recently rearranged several of its bus routes and pushed up school start and dismissal times because the district was losing teachers who no longer wanted to deal with the daily traffic congestion.
“We need a new bridge, but that probably won’t happen for 60 years,” Councilman R.J. Loupe said.
West Baton Rouge Parish Councilman Barry Hugghins asked the City Council to join the parish in taking the problem to Congress after it became clear state leaders weren’t going to be able to address the problem anytime soon due to the local bureaucracy.
“The gentlemen performing the study laid out a timeline for infrastructure improvements, and we were horrified to find out we can’t get any relief in less than 14 years,” Hugghins told the council Wednesday night. “We’re in an emergency situation. In 14 years, we will be gridlocked.”
“We’re already there!” City Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence quipped.
Hugghins said the parish is rallying support from all the local municipalities to remind Congress of its responsibility to aid in the promotion of local commerce.
Hugghins said I-10 is one of the most vital traffic corridors in the nation and the daily traffic snarls could affect future growth in the parish because there’s not enough infrastructure in place to promote further commercial expansion.
“I’m afraid many of the multimillion-dollar proposed projects we have could get canceled because of the traffic problems,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do.”
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