The bad news, and the good, is that orange barrels and “street closed” signs are likely to proliferate in the coming few years.
If the big-dollar construction projects all over Baton Rouge can ultimately contribute to better traffic flow, most people will cheer. But that won’t be for a while yet.
Because voters adopted a half-cent additional sales tax, a major road and bridge program over the next dozen years is about to kick off.
The 30-year MoveBR sales tax, as Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome dubbed it, is expected to generate about $1 billion for infrastructure projects throughout East Baton Rouge Parish.
Many of those projects on major corridors will take years to get underway and then complete, but some of the projects are thought to be more shovel-ready and are higher on the list.
“The first major traffic signalization project has begun and will be completed in 2020,” Broome told the Metro Council recently in her annual budget report.
The MoveBR program is “the largest infrastructure, mobility enhancement, and traffic mitigation program in the parish’s history,” she said. “The program is critical to ending traffic gridlock on our streets.”
We’re all for that, but we also note that there is a lot more going on in infrastructure. In part because of leadership from the Louisiana delegation in Congress, and particularly U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, drainage canals in parts of the parish will be improved.
Another $343 million is to be spent on the Comite Diversion Canal, a long-awaited flood protection project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes to complete the project, getting water from the Amite River to the Mississippi in case of flooding, by late 2021.
The city-parish government and Build Baton Rouge are also collaborating on improvements to Plank Road.
In Ardendale, near Florida Boulevard, projects associated with a new federal grant to rejuvenate the area will be getting off the ground. And the Government Street road project continues, although its more business-friendly alignment is already producing more shops and commercial opportunities in the heart of the city.
Not least, construction begins on a College Drive "flyover" in 2020, part of the state Department of Transportation and Development's plans for long-term widening and improvement of the interstate in the heart of town.
We’ve had a lot of experience with orange barrels and detours, but it is only going to be more hectic in the coming years. Folks need to be patient in the day-to-day process of getting around.