For all its charms — picturesque lakefront, quiet neighborhoods — Mandeville is a frustrating place in one basic sense: Just moving from east to west, or vice versa, can be a pain the neck.
North Causeway Boulevard tends to funnel traffic onto the bridge. Anyone traveling south on the boulevard who wants to get to either East or West Causeway Approach — key east-west arteries for the city — is stuck having to navigate a complicated set of U-turns to avoid heading out over the water.
By this time next year, though, local officials hope to have a fix in place.
The city is planning to add a lane to a small part of West Florida Street called Florida Extension, allowing for two-way traffic and a chance for southbound vehicles to make a simple righthand turn off of Causeway Boulevard.
It also means drivers coming from the eastern half of the city will have another way of crossing over Causeway Boulevard heading west.
The project, which is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million, should go out for bid this spring, according to Mayor Donald Villere.
The city is in the process of acquiring additional rights of way needed before the road can be expanded. That should be done in the first part of 2016, and then it could take four to six months to construct the new lane.
Carla Buchholz, the city councilwoman whose district includes the site, said she hopes the move will help businesses in western Mandeville, reduce confusion at the intersection and help keep vehicles from cutting through nearby neighborhoods.
Businesses in the area “feel like they have been cut off because of the way it’s been configured,” she said.
Unlike some other developments, this project has broad support from the City Council.
David Ellis, who represents much of the western side of the city, said he hopes it will cut down on people driving through the Fontainebleau subdivision, where he lives.
“It just makes more sense,” he said.
Carlton Dufrechou, who runs the commission that governs the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, said he sees no problems with the plan. “I don’t think it will have any impact on traffic on the bridge,” he said.
One problem the project won’t solve is the fact that southbound drivers cannot turn left off of Causeway Boulevard onto Florida Extension. Officials say allowing that would slow down traffic.
“We have looked at it several times,” Dufrechou said. “It impacts traffic going onto the bridge, particularly in the mornings and evenings.”
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.