A group of officials touting the Government Street road diet—a long-heralded and contentious project in Mid City—urged residents today to withstand the “short-term discomfort” of the construction impact on traffic, in exchange for long-term benefits in economic development and safety.
Workers broke ground late last month on the road diet, which will reduce much of Government Street from four lanes to three, and add bike paths and sidewalks. It will be constructed in half-mile increments and is set to be completed by July 2019.
“Contrary to popular belief, reducing the capacity of a road will sometimes, and in many cases, increase the use and utility of that road,” Shawn Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development, said at a press conference at Baton Rouge Magnet High School today.
Around 18,000 motorists travel down the 4.2-mile stretch of Government—from Lobdell Avenue to downtown—each day, Wilson said. It is also a dangerous corridor, with a higher rate of accidents. Wilson said the state anticipates a 25% drop in crashes when the project is done.
“It may be a little short-term discomfort, but we’re praying for the long-term gain and transformation that will take place as a result of this,” said Mayor Sharon Weston Broome.
Broome lauded the businesses that have located in the area, and forecasted a larger economic development rush in the area after the road diet is complete. The street will be overlaid with asphalt along the stretch once the lane transformations are complete.
Several Mid City restaurant owners have heralded the project as a much-needed shift toward walkability, while others have questioned why officials would reduce the number of traffic lanes along a busy corridor.
Sam Sanders, executive director of the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, says the process included a great deal of public input, and pointed to traffic engineers who have studied the idea and determined it was a good fit for the road.