Lake Charles council: Traffic as a result of roadwork a concern

Local officials are concerned that current traffic woes as a result of Interstate 10 work represent only a fraction of what’s to come when work begins on I-210, a much larger project that could last three or four years, they said Wednesday. 

Lake Charles City Council members voted Wednesday to send a resolution to state leaders asking them to develop a plan that would shorten I-210 bridge work, even if it means spending more up front. 

Options include “increasing the number of work hours” and adding incentives to the contract for if the project wraps up ahead of schedule, the resolution said.

“For the sake of our citizens, for the sake of our business owners, for the sake of government revenue, I ask that additional options be considered to prevent this brewing storm from having devastating effects,” said Mayor Nic Hunter, reading a letter he sent Wednesday to the state transportation department secretary. 

Hunter said local officials have observed the “horrendous traffic conditions” caused by I-10 work — a 10-mile journey from Lake Charles to Sulphur can take up to two hours— and are “rightfully concerned” about the effects of I-210 work in the near future. 

“Already, Southwest Louisiana citizens are suffering, spending more time away from family and more money on gas and vehicle upkeep due to this I-10 project,” the letter reads. “Already, we are hearing horror stories about businesses located along I-10 seeing major declines in sales.”

Although I-10 work will only take a matter of months, he said, I-210 work will last years, and it could have long-term effects. 

The I-210 corridor relies heavily on traffic from Texas, and officials fear that Texans who choose to take their business elsewhere during bridge construction may never return to Southwest Louisiana for those same services.

Hunter said shortening the process, even if it costs more, may end up saving government money in the long run when considering lost revenue.

Councilman Rodney Geyen praised the wording of the letter and said it reflected his concerns. Councilman Stuart Weatherford suggested the state also research “innovative” approaches to construction that could include prefabricating parts ahead of time.

Councilman John Ieyoub said Lake Charles would do well to partner with other cities, as well as the parish, when petitioning the state on bridge concerns, and Hunter agreed. 

Work on I-10, an $8.5 million project, started in March and should take four months. It includes repairing expansion joints on the overpasses and on the bridge, and will allow the interstate to handle extra traffic once I-210 work begins.

The I-210 project calls for redecking the bridge’s 930-foot main span; building an inspection walkway underneath the bridge; improving barrier rails; and installing lighting.

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