I have lived just off Government Street for more than 22 years, travel that street on a regular basis, frequent its stores and restaurants and have great interest in its future.
Surely, I must be among many in Baton Rouge who are aghast at the current plan to reduce that street from a four-lane essential conduit to a two-lane traffic nightmare with a turn lane.
The recent “informational” meeting by DOTD regarding the street changes offered no opportunity for concerned citizens to challenge the state and parish’s plans in an open question and answer forum.
Instead, citizens were advised to put their concerns down on paper, and those remarks would be available online or at the library. It is my understanding that the DOTD will perform and pay for the street’s alterations (with Federal funds), and then East Baton Rouge Parish will “own” the street, accepting responsibility for future maintenance.
If this is true, why would our parish take on such an additional financial burden when North Baton Rouge and other regions of the city have many more immediate funding needs (see Ed Pratt’s timely column on the opinion page of The Advocate on Jan. 9).
In reviewing a simple road map, Florida Boulevard and Government Street represent the two most strategic arteries to move traffic in and out of the downtown area where thousands of people go and come each day (of course, unless you consider the gridlocked Interstate).
Additionally, IBM with its proposed 800-plus new employees, the soon-to-be-built State Water Resource Facility with its several thousand employees, a new hotel and various new apartment buildings in the downtown area will add even more vehicles requiring ingress and egress.
I have learned over the years to “follow the money.”
Under the guise of making Government Street “greener” and more bike and pedestrian friendly, are some investors and property owners on Government Street exerting undue influence on this effort?
Who is really driving this entire project? Who initiated it? Who has the most to gain from such changes? Are a majority of Government Street business owners supporting this, or are they concerned about their future livelihoods? I have spoken to some who are very concerned.
In a recent traffic study in my neighborhood, certain streets were temporarily designated one way in a “traffic calming” experiment. It failed and the streets were returned to their original two-way status.
Applying that study as a model for Government Street, why not use temporary means to mimic the planned permanent changes in order to gauge the true impact.
Consider the effect such major changes in traffic flow would have on emergency vehicles, schools, the U.S. Postal Service, bus stops, grocery stores, access to Civic Center parking garages, increased traffic in adjacent family neighborhoods up and down the proposed change areas and many more.
The citizens of Baton Rouge should demand the opportunity to vote on this plan.
Mary H. Manhein
retired forensic anthropologist