No rest for the weary: Westside commuters face more traffic obstacles

The troubled intracoastal bridge—and westside commuters—can’t catch a break.

Traffic along La. 1 northbound, which is bad on a normal day, has recently worsened due to ongoing repairs to the aging Intracoastal Waterway Bridge in Port Allen. The situation has plagued westbank motorists for weeks, and just when they thought traffic couldn’t possibly get any worse, it did.

Wednesday evening a dump truck hit the south side of the bridge, causing enough damage to close one southbound lane. The lane is expected to remain closed for one month for emergency repairs, estimated to cost $450,000, the Department of Transportation and Development says today in a press release.

So now traffic backups are building in both directions over the intracoastal bridge, causing delays for westbank commuters leaving home—often headed over the Mississippi River bridge into Baton Rouge—and on their return.

The new La. 1 southbound delay, however, is more likely to grab the attention of those on the east side of the river. After the truck collision last night, the La. 1 traffic backups this morning spilled over into Interstate 10 westbound traffic in Baton Rouge.

“Baton Rouge traffic was backed up past the I-10/12 split this morning because of the intracoastal bridge,” says Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen. “If you were traveling from Denham Springs to downtown, you hit a wall when you got to the split.”

People often say it’s a “westside problem,” Ward adds, but this proves the traffic issues actually affect the entire Capital Region.

Some 50,000 commuters cross the intracoastal bridge daily, almost half the volume that travels the Mississippi River bridge each day. The F-rated intracoastal bridge has been in need of repair—actually a complete replacement—for years, according to DOTD, but insufficient funding has delayed plans to replace the bridge.

The good news, if you can call it that, is while crews work on the closed southbound lane repairs, the repairs on the northbound lanes will be suspended and traffic will remain open in both lanes, DOTD says.

The intracoastal bridge issues, Ward says, are yet another reason why the Capital Region desperately needs new infrastructure, including a new Mississippi River bridge, to use as alternative routes to get in and out of the west side.

“You’re literally living on an island (on the west side),” Ward says, “crossing your fingers that your only entrance and exit, that something doesn’t happen to it.”

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