Metro Council takes step toward making Picardy-Perkins Connector a reality; would connect Perkins to I-10 _lowres


A $37 million shortcut between Perkins Road and Interstate 10 is still a few years off, but the project — aimed at relieving traffic along Bluebonnet Boulevard — has taken a step forward.

During its most recent meeting, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council authorized about $73,000 to hire property appraisers to determine how much the city should pay when it begins to buy land for the Picardy-Perkins Connector.

The goal is to build a new road east of Perkins Rowe and the Swaggert Ministries property. It would intersect with Perkins on the south end and Mall of Louisiana Boulevard on the north.

There are also separate plans to realign Picardy Avenue so it intersects with the southernmost Mall of Louisiana entrance so drivers can get from Picardy to Perkins or the interstate without driving down Bluebonnet or circling the mall, said Jonathan Charbonnet, senior project manager for the city-parish’s Green Light Plan.

Construction on the first phase of the new connector is scheduled to start late this year or early next year. It will run from Perkins to Park Rowe Avenue, a road within Perkins Rowe complex, giving Perkins Rowe shoppers another entrance.

However, the second and larger stretch of the project extending the line to Mall of Louisiana Boulevard won’t be completed until late 2018 or 2019, Charbonnet said.

The project is “pretty complicated,” more complicated than it looks, he continued. The new road will need a bridge over Dawson Creek and an underpass beneath the Kansas City Southern Railroad line.

The proposed connector is occasionally known as “Paulat Boulevard.” However, once the entire roadway is built, it is expected to take the Mall of Louisiana Boulevard name.

The connector is part of a larger effort to ameliorate traffic in the area. In addition to rerouting Picardy, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation is also calling for an extension of Dijon Drive which wraps around Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. Its plans for a medical district include turning Dijon into a service road along Interstate 10, connecting Bluebonnet with Essen Lane and easing travel between the various health campuses in the area.

The Picardy-Perkins connector is part of the city-parish’s Green Light Plan, which is funded through a 30-year half-cent sales tax approved in 2005. About 75 percent of its projects have been completed, but now work is going to slow down, Charbonnet said.

To get a jump on construction in the early years, the city-parish issued about $300 million in bonds to fund projects more quickly. That money has been spent, so new projects will have to be funded as money comes in. The sales tax generates about $6.5 million per year, but the early bonds have to be repaid, so the final few construction projects will be finished slower than those that have already been finished. Nevertheless, the plan is still on track to finish as scheduled in 2030, Charbonnet said.

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