Interstateimpact1 (copy)

FILE PHOTO -- The widening of I-10 in Baton Rouge will swallow 17 homes, a handful of businesses and threaten other homes as well. 

Baton Rouge architect Coleman Brown said Monday traffic on Interstate 10 can be improved by spending far less than the state's $380 million plan and that closing the Washington Street exit is one of the keys.

"The same problem that has existed for about 50 years is the Washington exit," Brown told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said in a statement that officials have met with Brown "on numerous occasions" but his proposals would not solve daily traffic backups.

DOTD plans to add a new lane in each direction between La. 415 in West Baton Rouge Parish and the I-10/12 split, close and revamp several exists along the corridor and build a flyover for I-10 westbound traffic to exit at College Drive.

There are no plans to close the Washington Street exit, in part because objections from area residents has made doing so a political problem.

Brown said traffic improvements are possible by spending just $77 million, which he said would affect only a handful of homes and businesses compared to the 32 in the path of the state project.

He said the westbound entrance to I-10 from Dalrymple Drive could be made into a fourth lane, allowing motorists to turn around at Louise Street and head east on the interstate.

Brown said on-ramps at Acadian and Perkins could be extended by 400 feet and 600 feet respectively, making both safer.

He said the state could also consider putting restrictions on big trucks, like the lane limits and reduced speed limit for trucks traveling across the Atchafalaya Basin.

Wilson said the state plan stems from extensive analysis and represents a "comprehensive solution" to I-10 traffic problems.

"Mr. Brown's proposal relies on spot improvements and does not address the condition of the existing infrastructure, which is nearing the end of its useful life," he said.

State officials recently opened a new exit off I-110 South at Terrace Avenue, which allows motorists to reach the Washington Street area without having to cross multiple lanes of traffic.

Brown praised the project and noted that it was backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, Wilson and U. S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.

"It was a real team effort," he said. "That is what we need again."

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.