Regarding “Widening Interstate 10 just part of process, officials say”:
Commuter rail in Louisiana is a foreign concept. Like anything that is unfamiliar, not only do we Louisianians have a difficult time understanding the value of commuter rail, we also hesitate promoting the idea because we fear the unknown.
What is known, however, is the frustration that plagues the I-10/12 corridor between Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Slidell. The perpetual expansion of that corridor is fueled by that frustration. And so we focus our time and money on facilitating traffic flow the best we can.
Yet, what we tend to overlook is another known: someday we are simply going to run out of room. The roadway can only be widened so far before it reaches its geographical boundaries. This is a limit we cannot escape nor a limit we can ignore.
Over the course of the past 30 years, billions of dollars have been invested in the I-10/12 corridor. It was money well spent for the time. As we advance towards the constraints of the right-of-ways, we need to consider our options. Rail should be amongst the things we should explore now rather than later.
In years past, the idea of rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has surfaced. It has never gained much traction. This is mainly due to the fact that the population cannot see the benefits.
Development of a high-speed corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge could be extremely beneficial for the economy of South Louisiana; it could alleviate significant traffic management issues as well.
High-speed rail between the Capitol and Crescent City would allow for express travel between the downtown areas in less than 45 minutes with speeds in excess of 120 mph. Local commuter trains could follow the high-speed express service along this corridor and provide access to the local communities, allowing commuters to park and ride the train to work.
The other corridor to consider is between Hammond and Baton Rouge along Choctaw and US 190. Think of the thousands of people that commute between downtown Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish each day.
This will be an expensive project, there is no doubt. But we need to start thinking beyond the Interstate and the billions of dollars that we continue to spend and lag behind in the solution.