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Traffic is light on the Interstate 10 bridge during rush hour, Thursday, April 2, 2020, as drivers conducting essential business navigate the roadway as others stay off the road following Governor John Bel Edwards' shelter at home order due to coronavirus.

Despite Gov. John Bel Edwards' stay-at-home order, traffic is on the rise in the Baton Rouge and other areas, state and local officials said Monday.

"I can tell you traffic is picking up in the parish," Fred Raiford, director of transportation and drainage for East Baton Rouge Parish, said in an email. "I drive these roads every day and I have noticed traffic heavier on many major roadways."

Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said Monday the number of cars and trucks on the roads is clearly up from two weeks ago, though well under the volume before the global health crisis began.

Wilson, who commutes between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, said he has also noticed more trucks on the interstate in the evening, which may stem from the easing of anti-virus rules in Texas, Mississippi and other nearby states.

"The challenge is here in Louisiana, we still have issues and are still monitoring," he said.

"The message point is there is a phased-in opening, and that is where the public just hears the opening and decides to go back to the mode that 'I am doing everything I was doing,'" Wilson said.

A Michigan firm that provides transportation data, MS2, does a Daily Traffic Volume Trends report that shows more cars and trucks are on the road in Louisiana.

Last Friday traffic was down 18.4% compared to 28.1% two days earlier after being down 25% the Friday before and 31.6% on Friday, April 3.

In each case traffic in Louisiana was down less than the national average.

Edwards, after earlier suggesting that his stay-at-home order might be partially lifted on May 1, announced April 27 that it would be extended with a few changes until May 16.

The governor said a variety of troubling trends on the virus, and the opinion of a wide range of health experts, convinced him to keep the restrictions in place at least until mid-May.

But some GOP lawmakers and others objected to the extension of the stay-at-home order, and about 250 people appeared at the Governor's Mansion on Saturday to protest the governor's latest directive.

Aside from essential workers Louisiana residents are supposed to limit their travel to grocery stories, pharmacies and select other destinations.

Raiford said area traffic initially plunged 45% after the governor's first clamping down on movement to help combat the spread of the virus.

"Traffic over the past week has grown and even with school being out traffic on main highways in the parish has increased," he said.

Raiford also said traffic officials are looking into the possibility of adjusting signals to account for the heavier volume, and to allow cars and trucks to move smoother.

"Your main roadways are carrying more traffic than three weeks ago," he said.

On Saturday Siegen Lane in southeast Baton Rouge had heavy afternoon traffic under sunny skies.

Motorists also reported buildups on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge on Monday morning after weeks of easy commutes, and virtually none of the daily backups that the area is known for during normal times.

One of the gauges studied by DOTD officials is called the Community Mobility Report by Google.

It compares traffic in recent days to a baseline snapshot from Jan. 3-Feb. 6.

The latest report shows that, as of April 26 in Louisiana, traffic to retail sites is down 33%, 5% around groceries and pharmacies, 1% around parks and 32% near workplaces.

The same survey shows a 9% increase in traffic in residential areas.

While the state maintains cameras on the interstate they are to manage traffic, not to count cars and trucks.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.