Leaders begin weighing options for next major transportation project

    With Tuesday’s announcement that Louisiana has snagged a $60 million federal grant, which will enable the state to fund a solution to the Interstate 10 bottleneck at the Washington Street exit, some federal and state leaders are already looking ahead to the next transportation projects on their wish list.

    The $60 million grant, which will be used to widen parts of I-10 from the I-10/Interstate 49 exchange in Lafayette to the foot of the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, frees up state funds for other projects, including the estimated $18 million to $25 million needed to add a second Washington Street exit.

    So now, in a city marred by traffic woes, what’s next?

    Elected officials and economic development experts say several things need to happen, though the ultimate solution—what U.S. Rep. Garret Graves calls the “holy grail”—is a second bridge across the Mississippi River.

    “If this project is a down payment on congestion relief, it would be excellent to get a ‘bridge’ loan next,” says Adam Knapp, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

    Even if funds for a new bridge were available, however, such a project would take years to develop, experts agree. In the meantime, Graves and Scott Kirkpatrick, leader of the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, each have different projects they want to see next on the way to a new bridge.

    Graves would like to look at adding more lanes around the Highland Road exit on I-10 to alleviate the chronic rush hour gridlock in the area and expand the extra lane on I-10 all the way to Prairieville. He also would like to see the proposed Pecue Lane/I-10 interchange come to fruition.

    CRISIS, on the other hand, would like to see another lane added to I-10 around La. 415 and the Lobdell exit, where traffic coming into Baton Rouge from the west generally begins to bog down. His group also advocates for creating a bypass around Baton Rouge—either to the north or south—and widening the interstate throughout the city.

    “One way or another, we need a bypass,” he says.

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