Traffic problems that plague the Baton Rouge area in the best of times have gotten worse since Hurricane Ida, officials said Tuesday.

"You are seeing more traffic," said Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Snapshots at just two locations help point up the problem.

On Interstate 110 near the State Capitol, the maximum daily volume on Aug. 20 was 89,400 cars and trucks, nine days before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall near Port Fourchon. On Sept. 10 that volume rose to 94,923 vehicles.

On U.S. Hwy. 190 west of La. Hwy. 415 the maximum daily volume was 30,660 cars and trucks on Aug. 6. On Sept. 9th that volume shot up to 35,351 vehicles.

That means daily commutes that routinely feature backups on Interstate 10 and I-12, especially during morning and evening rush hours, now feature thousands of more cars and trucks, and lots of drivers who are unfamiliar with the roads.

Hotels and motels are filled with emergency personnel, and Gov. John Bel Edwards has urged those with hotel reservations to make sure their rooms are still available amid the scramble for space.

The hotel occupancy rate in the Baton Rouge area is over 80%, according to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

Some residents of Jefferson, Lafourche, Terrebonne and other parishes still grappling with power outages, and major rebuilding efforts, are in the Baton Rouge area temporarily.

"There are no hotel rooms available in town," Wilson said. "You still have a large influx of medical personnel responding to COVID as well as people staying in hotels until their homes are back up and running."

Eighteen wheelers headed east on I-10 to LaPlace and other spots blasted by Hurricane Ida are a common site.

Debris on roadways more than two weeks after the storm forces more motorists onto select routes.

Last Thursday an accident on I-10 west backed up traffic for miles at the same time problems on I-10 east forced motorists onto River Road and other alternate routes.

Wilson said about 700,000 fled Baton Rouge in a single day ahead of the storm.

How and when they trickle back is another factor in daily traffic counts.

Experts say the influx of traffic is far less than it was after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, and forced thousands of New Orleans area residents to temporarily resettle in the Baton Rouge area and points west.

Hurricane Katrina sparked an initial surge of about 235,000 residents to the Baton Rouge area.

"I don't think this is a long-term adjustment," Wilson said.

"This is much more of a response and recovery effort," he said.

"When electricity gets fully back on you are going to see a lot more trucks, a lot of debris being removed that keeps up your ADT as well," Wilson said, a reference to average daily traffic.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.

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