The state highway department is starting work on an $11.3 million project to widen a 1.2-mile stretch U.S. 190 in Mandeville from two lanes to four.

A ceremonial ground-breaking was held Thursday at Mandeville City Hall. Allison Schilling, a district administrator for the state Department of Transportation and Development, represented the agency.

She said the project will improve a vital corridor that also feeds principal hurricane evacuation routes.

Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere said 20,000 cars got through the area on a daily basis.

The road widening runs from Louisiana 3228, or Asbury Drive, to Lonesome Road, the DOTD said in a news release. The work will include a raised divided median and improvements to traffic signals, ditches and sidewalks. An existing two-lane bridge over Bayou Chinchuba will be replaced by two new bridge spans, each with two lanes.

The work is being funded by $9.3 million in federal money and $2.3 million in 2008 surplus funds, according to the DOTD. Command Construction Industries has the contract, and the work is expected to wrap up next spring.