Major traffic pattern changes planned as part of a State Capitol security upgrade are being delayed, the state’s construction manager said.
The Louisiana Legislature begins its 2015 session in April, and there is a concern that the road work would not be completed in time, State Office of Facility Planning and Control Director Mark Moses said. Rather than rush the work, Moses said, “We have decided to postpone it.”
But the project also includes changing the road on either side of the Arsenal Museum, on the east side of the Capitol, from one-way to two-way traffic. Roundabouts would be constructed to help with vehicle flow — one approaching the Arsenal from the Governor’s Mansion and another as the drive approaches the back of the Capitol. Another roundabout is being considered where the road behind the Capitol ends at Third Street. Moses said the current configuration where the two roadways meet is “awkward.”
Visitors to the State Capitol this holiday season will find a construction zone with chain-link fences, ripped-up pavement and materials stacked up all around.
There are some signs of progress four months into the project. A pedestrian plaza, installed at the foot of front steps — the ones with the states etched into them — is nearing completion. During legislative sessions, the plaza will allow parking, with colored pavers measuring off parking spots. “Aesthetically, it will be more pleasing,” Moses said.
The parking lot in the back of the State Capitol, on the north side, is still under construction. Majestic magnolias and other trees that stood for decades at the back of the Capitol disappeared to make way for the concrete. Security posts at two entrances from the Third Street side are being finished.
Barriers, known as bollards, are being installed along Third Street, as well as along front and back parking areas to stop vehicles from driving onto the lawn or getting too close to the building. “That’s more of a security issue,” said Moses.
Work on the north side of the building should be completed by mid-to-late January, Moses said. “We will be able to open it to traffic on that side,” he said.
Then, activity will shift to the south side of the Capitol. “That work should go quickly because they will have all materials on site,” Moses said.
“We anticipate everything to be complete before session,” he said.
If there’s time, Moses said there will be one traffic flow change prior to session, but it won’t involve construction, only restriping.
Under the change, Fifth Street — past the site of the old Insurance Building — will be converted to one way toward the Arsenal from Spanish Town Road with angled parking spaces along both sides.
What is known as the Garden lot will be one way headed toward Spanish Town away from the Capitol and Arsenal. Parking spaces there will be realigned.
“Right now, it’s very difficult to drive down the Garden lot with parking on both sides,” said Moses. “It will still be one way; however, there will be less parking to make driving easier. The insurance site side would become one way, but there would be additional parking to make up what is lost.”