An alternative solution to the planned I-10 widening project could save taxpayers more than $1 billion and shave off at least six years of work, local architect Coleman Brown told Press Club of Baton Rouge attendees at today’s luncheon.
It’s not the first time Brown, infrastructure committee chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Chamber of Commerce, has pitched the plan to the public as an alternative to the Department of Transportation and Development’s I-10 widening plan, which is estimated to cost $1.1 billion over an eight- to 10-year period and affect 17 properties.
But today’s presentation was different in that it highlighted specific traffic “choke points” the chamber believes its plan would address—but instead, with a $77 million price tag and three-year construction timeline.
“DOTD is still using a plan from 20 years ago that would widen the entire interstate,” Brown said. “Ours shows an ability to deal with the choke points where they are.”
Among the chamber’s recommendations, originally penned in a June letter to the Advocate:
• Demolish and move the Washington I-10 exit and entrance 1,250 feet north to Louise Street.
• Connect Dalrymple’s westbound I-10 entrance with a continuous fourth lane to Louise, which would allow for an entrance onto Louise’s new eastbound entrance—a “Texas U.”
• Extend the “dangerously short” westbound Perkins and Acadian entrance ramps by 400 and 600 feet, respectively, for an estimated $20 million.
• Rather than demolish Southdowns-Valley Park Nairn Street Bridge and the Acadian Railroad Underpass, preserve and repaint the City Park Lakes bridge to its original sky-blue color.
Of these, Brown considered the demolition and relocation of the Washington exit to be the most pressing improvement—work estimated to cost between $15 million and $20 million.
He also recommended implementing “directional towing” practices for wrecked and stalled vehicles on the interstate, as well as providing an emergency vehicle-only crossover near I-10 and I-110 at a cost of $2 million to $3 million and restricting 18-wheeler truck speed and lane usage.
While DOTD has met with Brown multiple times and respects his opinion, DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says the I-10 widening represents a “comprehensive solution” being developed through “extensive technical analyses and public involvement.”
“We have followed the industry best practice,” Wilson says in a text message. “Mr. Brown’s proposal relies on spot improvements and does not address the condition of the existing infrastructure, which is nearing the end of its useful life.”
Moreover, Wilson says Brown’s plan doesn’t address improvements in West Baton Rouge Parish nor on the approaches to the Mississippi River Bridge.
DOTD is taking public comments for the project until Dec. 3 and will complete the environmental stage within a few months.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since its original publication to include comments from DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.