Traffic I-12 Baton Rouge Louisiana

A Senate-passed bill that would allow the state to create a new lane in each direction on Interstate 12 between the I-10/12 split and Walker moved within one step of final approval Monday.

The measure, Senate Bill 84, breezed through the House Transportation Committee without opposition.

It next faces a vote in the full House.

Under the plan, the state would convert about 15 miles of what is now shoulder space on I-12 into high-occupancy travel lanes to ease congestion.

Vehicles would have to have two or more occupants to use the lanes.

"It is a good solution," said state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston and sponsor of the bill.

Erdey said he regrets that it has taken so long since he proposed studying the idea in 2015.

When the new lanes could be reality if the bill wins final approval is unclear.

Officials of the state Department of Transportation and Development are awaiting the results of a study by the Denver-based engineering firm Arcadis.

That review is supposed to be finished by the end of the month.

Erdey said the new lanes would cost about $750,000 for signs, stripes and other work.

The proposal won praise from committee members.

"It is awesome," said state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge and a member of the panel.

"I have often asked the question of why we don't have HOV lanes like other places," Marcelle said.

She said she hopes the state can eventually launch park-and-ride sites that allow motorists to carpool, reducing traffic problems.

Rep. Ed Larvadain III, D-Alexandria, another member of the committee, also praised Erdey's proposal.

"I want to thank you for thinking outside the box," Larvadain told Erdey. "Congestion over there is horrible."

The legislation would give DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson authority to designate HOV lanes statewide.

However, the bill prohibits the state from converting existing travel lanes into HOV lanes.

What times of the day HOV lanes would be in effect is also to be decided.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.