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Editorial: Lake Area, Baton Rouge facing similar traffic problems

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 8:55 PM

The Interstate 10 bridge over the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge may well be the biggest chokepoint for traffic in our state.

Catch it at the wrong time, particularly during late-afternoon eastbound rush hour, and it may take you an hour to cover 15 miles.

Now, state Department of Transportation and Development officials are looking for a solution to the regular traffic snarls on both sides of the bridge.

Some of it can be chalked up to volume — about 86,000 motorists use the I-10 Mississippi River bridge daily. Eighteen-wheelers are normally slowed by the bridge’s rise and all traffic naturally brakes on the east side of the bridge at the merger of I-10 and I-110. Construction farther east at times on I-10 and I-12 have also caused traffic to back up.

DOTD officials believe one answer may be encouraging motorists to use the old Mississippi River bridge a couple of miles upstream from the more heavily traveled I-10 bridge.

That’s certainly not attractive to eastbound motorists driving through Baton Rouge en route to New Orleans on I-10 or Hammond on I-12 and beyond.

But DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas said people who work in West Baton Rouge Parish but live in on the east side of the river and particularly those who live north of I-10 would be better served taking the old bridge.

Suggestions to widen I-10 from the bridge to the I-10/I-12 split have been opposed by business owners along the route and LeBas said the $200 million price tag for such an expansion is cost prohibitive.

So is the cost of a new bridge across the Mississippi.

All of this is consideration for our region’s DOTD planners and local officials.

The spike in construction workers for industrial projects planned in the next few years will stress our area’s road systems and the bridges crossing the Calcasieu River. There’s neither the money nor the time to upgrade Southwest Louisiana’s road systems to fully handle the anticipated traffic surge.

Hence, planners, government officials and motorists are going to have to be nimble, resourceful, and, in many instances, patient in working around the traffic headaches that will surely accompany the economic surge.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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