Workers next week will revamp a controversial exit route off the new Mississippi River Bridge, state officials said Thursday.
The current setup, which has come under fire from motorists and state lawmakers, requires westbound traffic on the bridge headed for La. 1 to use the right “exit only” lane.
The change will return traffic patterns to the previous configuration, which allowed westbound motorists on the three-lane stretch to take the Plaquemine and Port Allen exit from the middle or right lanes.
Officials of the state Department of Transportation and Development made the one-lane switch in August 2010 because they thought it would improve traffic flow.
“It just does not perform as we expected that it would,” DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas said. “It is just as simple as that.”
Traffic problems triggered by the change also led to between 40 and 50 accidents, said Ken Albarez, deputy sheriff for the traffic division of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Albarez said earlier that the area had about five crashes in the previous year.
The work will require closing the westbound lanes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sept. 13-15.
During those times, westbound traffic will be limited to one lane from the Interstate 10-110 split — the entry point onto the bridge — to the La. 1 exit in West Baton Rouge Parish.
In addition, the La. 1 exit ramp will be closed for about three hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sept. 13.
The work will cost about $68,000, state officials said.
About 56,000 westbound motorists use the bridge daily, according to DOTD. About 35,000 are headed toward Lafayette, 14,000 to Plaquemine and 7,000 to Port Allen.
The decision to limit exit traffic to one lane stemmed in part from the fact that 88 percent of bridge traffic used the left and center lanes.
Once the work is done next week, the left lane will continue to serve bridge through-traffic.
State Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, led area efforts to return the lanes to their previous pattern.
St. Germain praised LeBas and other DOTD officials for their willingness to respond to complaints.
“They really did a yeoman job of listening to the public,” she said.
At the request of state lawmakers, DOTD reviewed traffic flow across the bridge since the changes were put in place.
The study found slightly improved traffic times for those continuing across the bride but not for those getting off at the Plaquemine/Port Allen exit.