Essen lane traffic jam

Traffic backs up on Essen Lane in this Advocate file photo. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome wants a tax to build new roads in East Baton Rouge Parish.

A $16 million project to widen heavily-traveled Essen Lane between Interstate 10 and Perkins Road is set to be finished in roughly one month, officials said Tuesday.

Earlier this month the state Department of Transportation and Development announced that workers were putting travel lanes into their final configuration.

The project is widening the roadway from five to six lanes – three in each direction.

A new northbound lane is being added as well as additional shoulder space near existing lanes.

The overhaul will include what officials call a two-way center lane between the interstate and Perkins, which means motorists headed north or south will have a designated corridor to turn.

About 55,000 motorists use the stretch daily.

Traffic delays often extend onto the I-10 eastbound exit lane at Essen because of daily backups, especially around Our Lady of Lake Regional Medical Center.

Not surprisingly, travel has been even more complicated on the one-mile section during construction.

The aim is to have the work done by the end of July or early August barring weather problems, said Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for DOTD.

The cost of the work is being split between the state and the city-parish's Green Light Plan, which uses certain sales tax revenue for road improvements.

Shawn Wilson, secretary for DOTD, said Tuesday it is not unusual for DOTD to tackle such a project – it is a state road – when it is close to an interstate.

"If nothing else it eases congestion through a very tight corridor," Wilson said of the project. 

Giving motorists more leeway on where and how they turn off Essen is another plus, he said.

The current work includes crews changing signals and adding new sidewalks and handicap ramps.

Intermittent closings on parts of the far right lane are also expected.

The widening work was initially set to start in the summer of 2014.

Instead, it began in September 2017.

Utility relocation took considerable time early in the project, officials said.

Earlier work included two additional turn lanes onto I-10 from both northbound and southbound Essen Lane.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.