By the end of the summer or early fall, a new four-lane road from Interstate 12 to the heart of Central will be opened for quicker access to East Baton Rouge Parish’s newest city.

The Central Thruway is part of the city-parish’s Green Light Plan, which is funded from the proceeds of a 0.5 percent sales and use tax passed parishwide in 2005. Work on the Central Thruway project started in April 2008, said John Snow, spokesman for the Green Light Plan.

Although the four-lane divided thruway will be only 4.1 miles, it includes seven bridges along its length — thus the $61.5 million price tag, Snow said.

“They’re on the last phase right now,” said David Barrow, chief administrative officer with Central. “The thruway is completely finished from Florida to Greenwell Springs Road.”

The last phase is the widening of the intersection at Greenwell Springs Road and the Central Thruway construction, which has already begun. Since March 8, traffic on Greenwell Springs Road has been diverted onto a new detour bridge over Beaver Bayou while work on the intersection widening takes place, he said.

The entire thruway, when opened later this year, will connect O’Neal Lane with Greenwell Springs Road.

“It’s going to open Central up to the interstate,” Barrow said.

The thruway will have limited access and exit points because of the relatively low ground the thruway covers, Barrow said.

“So much of the Central Thruway is actual bridge work,” he said.

In addition, there will be only two signal lights along the road, one at Choctaw Drive and one at Frenchtown Road, Barrow said.

“It opens a straight shot now to Interstate 12,” Barrow said. “It’s going to make access from that part of town easier.”

A possible downside is that it will also be an easier way for people working in Baton Rouge to get to their homes in Livingston Parish, and that could increase traffic on Greenwell Springs Road, he said. With the widening of the Magnolia Bridge, the traffic should flow more smoothly, he said, but it probably will mean increased traffic flow.

The bridge at Greenwell Springs Road will occasionally flood during high water, but improvements from the Central Thruway project will give commuters another option.

“Now you have another way out of Central,” Barrow said, “because the bridges they built are very high. These won’t flood.”

The work at the intersection of Greenwell Springs Road involves construction crews taking down the old bridge and replacing it with a five-lane bridge, enlarging the intersection. The work will result in two lanes of travel east and west on Greenwell Springs Road and double left-turn lanes for drivers to turn onto Central Thruway.

The thruway will have two lanes north and south as well as dedicated turn lanes onto Greenwell Springs Road and dedicated right turn lanes. Soon after the Central Thruway is opened, a traffic light at Greenwell Springs Road and Sullivan Road will be removed and traffic traveling south on Sullivan Road won’t be allowed to turn left onto Greenwell Springs Road but will instead need to use the Central Thruway intersection.