The three east-west thoroughfares in Baton Rouge’s inner city that reach downtown are Florida Boulevard, which extends farther east; North Boulevard, dead-ending at Foster Drive; and Government Street, connecting with Independence Boulevard to Wooddale Boulevard. The primary objective, as is with any main artery, is to accommodate heavy traffic through the city.
The plan to divert Government Street from its major purpose by changing the four moving traffic lanes to two in order to create this neighborhood-friendly walking/biking/shopping destination district is a serious pipe dream. There are many problems with this “makeover” and surely some unforeseen.
The well-established double traffic lanes intersecting Government Street will need redesigning for merging into one lane. They are: Independence Boulevard, two lanes westbound; Lobdell Boulevard, two lanes westbound; Jefferson Highway, two lanes westbound; and Foster Drive, two turn lanes eastbound.
These changes will create serious bottlenecks and hazards at all connections.
Much of the weekday morning westbound traffic uses Jefferson Highway en route to Government Street to avoid the interstate. It is often bumper to bumper and in the event of a problem on the interstate, which occurs often, it is compounded by the spillover of cars and 18-wheelers. The automobile traffic will not decrease because working people depend heavily on their cars in the event of a personal need during working hours.
Firetrucks and EMS vehicles from the new station at Jefferson Highway/Claycut/Goodwood travel Government Street many times daily. It is tricky enough on a four-lane road for one to get through traffic. There will be one-lane traffic holdups from cars entering and exiting business places, CATS picking up passengers, 18-wheelers unloading that have little access to some business places, car breakdowns and wrecks.
Rear-end collisions are a given. Making a left turn and crossing a traffic lane is one thing, but crossing a bike lane as well is another, particularly if the projected bike traffic increases.
The largest business district on Government Street runs from Jefferson Highway to Acadian Thruway as does its largest adjacent neighborhood, Capital Heights.
The traffic on the westbound one lane that runs through this neighborhood will increase considerably, and recently residents are complaining about drivers using it as a shortcut, the speed of the cars and the hazard of walking and biking on the existing path.
Therefore, I seriously doubt that these residents will be biking or walking to Government Street for a shopping outing. Anyone shopping the area would certainly need their car to transport any purchases as opposed to walking or traveling on their bike.
The theory “Build it, they will come” depends on what it is, its necessity, its cost and does it serve more than a few. Although continuous center turn lanes are considered “suicide lanes,” adding one to Government Street would serve everyone; the rest of the plan does not.
Marlene M. Penick
retired television employee