Work begins to add third lane to I-12 between U.S. 11 and Airport Road _lowres


A state highway project that will add a third lane to both sides of Interstate 12 in St. Tammany Parish between U.S. 11 and Northshore Boulevard/Airport Road has begun, with state Transportation Secretary Sherri LeBas describing the $20.6 million project Thursday as part of a plan to eventually widen all of I-12 between Baton Rouge and Slidell.

The 2.4-mile stretch that will be widened in the next year is used by about 85,000 vehicles daily, LeBas said, noting that the area has seen growth and increased traffic in recent years.

While there will be some lane closures during the 355-day project, expected to end by mid-2016, two lanes will be kept open during peak travel times, engineer Seth DeArmas said.

Work will begin on the eastbound side first. The project includes widening an overpass that goes over railroad tracks just west of Bayou Vincent.

Parish President Pat Brister said the work will cause some inconvenience, but it will be “so well worth it” to have increased capacity on the highway.

The third lane will make life easier for residents who use I-12 to get to and from work and school, as well as for businesses that rely on the transportation corridor, Brister said.

Road crews were putting out lights on the eastbound side Wednesday night.

On Thursday, LeBas, Brister and other officials pushed gold-painted shovels into a sandy strip in front of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office on Brownswitch Road as traffic on I-12 whizzed by behind them.

The design work for the project was done in-house, and the contractor is James Construction Group, of Baton Rouge.

The widening work follows an earlier project to add a lane in both directions from the interchange of Interstates 10, 12 and 59 to U.S. 11, a $25.6 million project that was completed in 2012.

LeBas said the state has spent $309 million on road construction in St. Tammany Parish alone since 2008.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.