A recent edition of The Advocate outlines imminent plans for the "downsizing" of Government Street in Baton Rouge. Let me get this straight: two lanes from Interstate 110 to North Foster; four lanes from North Foster to Jefferson Highway (though your newspaper illustration shows four lanes to Ardenwood); two lanes from Jefferson Highway to Lobdell, with a roundabout at Lobdell. Multiple iterations of where the street changes from four to two lanes have been presented to the public over the last year or so. Dedicating a “third” lane as a turn lane seems counterproductive since traffic from the opposite direction will dictate the efficiency of such a lane. Added to all of this is the lack of any clear decision regarding bus stops.

Government Street ‘road diet’ plan changing shape as project start date remains uncertain _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Looking west from West Drive down Government Street as traffic splashes through the puddles on a rainy Friday afternoon June 3, 2016. Local and state officials have been talking for years about winnowing the road down from two lanes in either direction to a single lane each way with a center turning lane and bike lanes. In 2014, Mayor-President Kip Holden said he expected the project to be complete by 2015. Recently, city and state officials gave a smattering of estimates for when work will actually begin, but it could be late 2019 before a slimmer Government Street reopens. Construction has been delayed to change the road to a three lane, with turning lanes, bike paths and sidewalks.

An estimated $11.2 million will be spent on this “road diet,” and it will impact the traffic in and out of the downtown area; it will also have a negative effect on small businesses along Government Street with an unnecessary project that most likely will take at least two years to complete; and will create traffic chaos with alternating numbers of lanes. Officials say they "are trying to emulate the feel of Magazine Street in New Orleans.” Are you kidding me? Baton Rouge is a riverboat town where a major artery in and out of the Capitol will be severely limited forever. What are the state and the parish leaders thinking? Government Street merchants (more than 100-plus of you), do you really believe this will not affect your businesses in the short and long term? People will simply avoid you, not just for the likely two years of construction chaos, but possibly in the foreseeable future due to congestion. If you merchants along that corridor are unhappy with this bizarre idea, why not join together in a class-action lawsuit against the state and parish?

As for the $11.2 million being spent on this project, I can think of so many areas where that money could be used to actually benefit the people of East Baton Rouge Parish, such as construction of a modest medical center dedicated to treating the mentally ill so they will not be placed among the general prison population; bonuses for law enforcement officers and schoolteachers; road repairs in the northern part of the parish; financial incentives for those who wish to open small businesses north of Florida Boulevard, to list only four. We elect leaders whom we believe will carry out our wishes, not the desires of only a few. If these leaders do not pursue the majority’s wishes and handle taxpayers’ dollars responsibly, isn’t it time for them to be held accountable in the next election?

Find out when, where Government Street road diet will break ground

Mary H. Manhein

retired lab director

Baton Rouge