BR.jbepress.082720 TS 94.jpg (copy)

Shawn Wilson, left, shown here with Gov. John Bel Edwards during a press conference in August, announced Monday that a contractor has been picked for the first phase of the widening of I-10 between La. 415 and the I-10/12 split. 

State officials said Monday they have picked a contractor to handle the first phase of the widening of often-congested Interstate 10 between La. Hwy. 415 in West Baton Rouge Parish and the I0/12 split.

The work will be done by Kiewit/Boh, a joint venture and one of three firms that submitted qualifications to the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Construction is set to start in late 2022, and take at least six years to complete.

The overhaul is being financed with federal bonds, with the state repaying the money by using a portion of its annual allocation of federal aid.

The bonds are allowing the state to launch a major project in Baton Rouge despite a $14 billion backlog of road and bridge needs, and a state gas tax that has remained unchanged for the past 30 years.

"Since 2016 this administration has been bold in our efforts to prioritize and deliver value-added infrastructure solutions across the state of Louisiana," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.

"The innovation, competence and courage by DOTD and its government and private sector partners to advance the widening of I-10 is a game-changer for this region and for interstate commerce," Edwards said.

"While not the only solution to regional challenges, it is critical to reducing congestion, fostering economic development and enhancing the qualify of life of those living and working in the vicinity of the project," he said.

The corridor was built in the 1960s to handle around 80,000 cars and trucks per day.

More than twice that number rely on that section of the interstate daily, which is a key reason it is the site of near daily backups.

More than 200,000 vehicles per day will be using the corridor daily by 2032, not long after the first phase is set for completion.

Edwards first announced the plans in January 2018 after a bid by his administration to boost the state gas tax by 17 cents per gallon, or $510 million per year, died without a vote in the state House or Senate.

DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, who led that 2017 effort, said the work is the largest of its kind since the construction of the highway.

"This is a historic development for the progress and growth of Baton Rouge, the likes of which we haven't seen since the initial construction of the interstate system," Wilson said, also in a statement.

The scoop on state politics in your inbox

Get the Louisiana politics insider details once a week from us. Sign up today.

"The state's first urban redevelopment in half a century has been much needed for many years, but lack of funds, financial planning and political will prevented it from happening," he said.

"These projects will be done in phases to minimize impacts on the traveling public," Wilson said.

The initial work carries a pricetag of $716 million and it does not include costs of the upgrades between the east side of the Mississippi River bridge and La. 415.

State officials have long said the work totaled $360 million.

Wilson said Monday $360 million is what the state is borrowing initially, with more planned in future years after roughly half of the first debt is paid off.

The initial phase will be focused from just west of Washington Street to Essen Lane on I-10.

The Washington Street exit has long been the site of daily backups for cars and trucks leaving the bridge and heading eastward.

The first part of the work includes the reconstruction of I-10 – parts of it are outdated because of wear and tear – and an additional lane in each direction.

Other components include changes to the intersections at Washington Street, Dalrymple Drive, Perkins Road, Acadian Thruway and College Drive and replacement of the Narin Drive overpass.

The $52.3 million College Drive work will be a revamp of the westbound exit.

It will allow westbound traffic on I-10 to get off at College Drive without having to cross multiple lanes of traffic, which is especially risky during morning rush hour.

That work will be done by Boh Bros. Construction Co.

Wilson said Monday the College Drive portion of the project will begin in 2021.

Also included in the initial phase outlined Monday is the construction of noise barriers, interstate lighting, guide signs, traffic signals and pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.

Roundabouts are planned at Terrace Avenue and Braddock Street; the Washington Street interchange and Dalrymple Drive at East Lakeshore Drive.

Email Will Sentell at