In a boost for motorists, the state of Louisiana will add one new lane in each direction on heavily-traveled Interstate 10 between Highland Road in Baton Rouge and La. Hwy. 73 in suburban Ascension Parish, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday.
"It is one of the most congested sections of interstate in Louisiana," Edwards told reporters.
The work on the roughly seven-mile stretch is scheduled to begin in about one year.
Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said it is too soon to tell how long the expansion will take, but the state's plan will save time and money.
The project will cost upwards of $60 million, Wilson said.
The upgrade comes at a time when the state has a $12.7 billion backlog of road and bridge projects, and a gubernatorial study aimed at coming up with solutions.
Previous work expanded I-10 by one lane each way from the I-10/12 split to Highland Road.
However, going from three lanes to two east of Highland triggers traffic slowdowns.
The project could also allow for interstate elevations along the stretch – a foot or so – to help avoid flooding problems like those that appeared in the area last month during historic weather troubles.
A study touted as the forerunner to the most sweeping overhaul of Louisiana's roads and brid…
The widening should also improve traffic in part because La. 73 – the Prairieville/Geismar exit – is a key exit for eastbound Ascension Parish residents who make daily commutes into East Baton Rouge Parish.
In addition, the stretch targeted for improvements is part of the I-10 corridor that features freight haulers traveling between California and Florida.
After a summer marked by record flooding and other problems, politicians who turned out for the announcement were almost giddy over a big-impact road project.
State Reps. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge; Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge; C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge; Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales; and others gathered around the governor while he spelled out the details.
Marcelle is running for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Officials said the work will be financed by re-routing federal funds earmarked for other projects, such as overlay and safety work.
Edwards emphasized that those projects will be delayed, not scrapped, and that directing dollars to the I-10 expansion will prevent them from being reallocated to other states.
Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, another candidate for mayor-president, attended the press conference and said he was assured the work will not affect the Pecue Lane/I-10 interchange project.
Wilson said widening I-10 from Highland to La. 73 overtook efforts to widen I-10 from the Mississippi River bridge to the I-10/12 split because the latter is not ready for work.
"It (Highland to La. 73) is one of the most congested areas ready to be built," he said.
The exact price tag on the work is unclear in part because the state plans to use an accelerated process called design/build.
That means the project will be handled by a joint team of highway designers and builders, rather than having those steps handled separately.
Doing so requires the approval of the House and Senate transportation committees, which appears assured.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and House Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Havard, R-St . Francisville, attended Tuesday's gathering, praised the project and vowed to meet quickly.
Cortez said the expansion schedule means taxpayers will be able to see concrete being turned within a year or so.
Edwards said design/build will shorten the work by three to four months.
Wilson said how long the expansion will take depends in part on days budgeted to finish the job by firms bidding on the work.
While modest compared to the state's overall needs, the plan represents the second notable road project in the Baton Rouge area since Edwards and Wilson took office in January.
The state will get another $40 million in federal highway aid to finance improvements on Int…
A federal grant is, among other things, going to finance the relocation of the often-congested Washington Street exit near the Mississippi River bridge to one closer to downtown.