Six months after the first round, state transportation leaders Monday night launched a new series of public hearings focusing on widening Interstate 10 from the I-10 Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge to the Interstate 12 split.
However, many of the same concerns remain, including how to pay for the $350 million upgrade and how long it will take for motorists to see any improvements.
“It seems like it is going to be 10 years before anything is done,” said Ken Stewart, who lives just off Dalrymple Drive.
The 4-mile corridor under review is one of the most congested and complained about in a metro area known for daily traffic jams.
The issue even sparked a comment from President Barack Obama during his visit to Baton Rouge last month when Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mayor-President Kip Holden brought it to his attention.
Those who turned out for the hearing at McKinley Middle School got updates from officials of the state Department of Transportation and Development and studied maps and other exhibits.
The key to the plan is adding an additional lane in each direction from the bridge to the split.
Officials said most of that can be done with existing right of way on the interstate.
In addition, officials are rolling out a wide range of alternatives at interchanges along the route, including the Washington Street exit that is a key source of backups for eastbound traffic leaving the bridge.
One alternative in all the models — moving that exit to the left side of the interstate for eastbound motorists — would be designed to ease those backups.
But such a move has caused concerns for years from area residents and the possibility that any such plan could cost them their homes.
“We just wanted to make sure there are not a lot of people taken out,” said Christine Sparrow, who was among those studying maps and drawings of various scenarios.
Adam Davis, project manager for Providence Engineering, which is working with DOTD on early planning, said officials reviewed and discarded numerous ideas for traffic improvements that surfaced during last year’s hearings.
One called for adding two additional lanes in each direction and building a new bridge across the Mississippi River, south of the I-10 structure.
The pricetag? About $1 billion.
“It was recommended that that concept not move forward,” Davis said.
The study area extends from La. 415 in West Baton Rouge Parish to the I-10/12 split.
Problems include daily backups for bridge-bound motorists on La. 1 north, short acceleration lanes for westbound traffic at Perkins Road and Acadian Thruway and problems crossing multiple lanes of traffic for westbound motorists exiting on College Drive.
Kenri Avery, who lives in Baton Rouge, said he likes the idea of a new bridge across the river south of the I-10 bridge to lessen the impact on Perkins, Acadian and College.
Maury Marix, who lives off Dalrymple Drive, said he liked some of the options on display Monday night.
“Something’s got to be done,” he said. “It’s just getting worse and worse and worse.”
The hearing was the first of two scheduled this week on the widening plan.
One originally scheduled for Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Addis Community Center was postponed.
The next gathering is set for from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Baton Rouge Marriott.
Those were held on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 3.
About 150,000 cars and trucks use that section of I-10 daily.
Louisiana has a $12.7 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.
In addition, the state faces a shortfall of about $900 million by June 30 and about $2 billion for the financial year that begins on July 1.
DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson has said that, while improvements are years away, segments could be done in phases as dollars become available.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/ politicsblog/.