At back-to-back community meetings this week, Metro Council member Barbara Freiberg got an earful from constituents, who are concerned about—what else?—traffic.
At Tuesday night’s District 12 meeting, the talk focused more on the planned widening of Interstate 10 through the heart of the city. At Wednesday’s Concord Estates meeting, concern centered on additional traffic through the neighborhood once Congress Avenue is extended across Perkins Road into Rouzan.
“People are just frustrated,” Freiberg says. “Right now, with the La. 1 (Intercoastal) bridge across the river messed up, it makes everything even worse.”
For those at the District 12 meeting worried about what the interstate expansion will do to traffic and the neighborhoods around the elevated portions of the highway, an update from Louisiana Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson contained a bit of good news, in a way.
Wilson told the crowd it would probably be five years before the state is ready to begin widening the interstate on the east side of the City Park Lakes, which would be a reprieve for worried merchants in the Perkins Road Overpass area and residents of potential historic districts like Hundred Oaks and Old South Baton Rouge.
Before work crews would get to that point, they first have to construct “flyover” ramps at the I-10/I-12 split and widen the S. Acadian Thruway. Then, they will begin the widening project, working their way back towards the east from the base of the Mississippi River Bridge.
“That seemed to really make people feel better,” Freiberg says. “Because it’s a long way off.”
Granted, the longer the start of the project is delayed, the longer until it is completed and can provide relief but for now that doesn’t seem to be of great concern.
What is, at least for residents of Concord Estates, is an increase in cut-through traffic once the main thoroughfare in their neighborhood—Congress Avenue—is extended into Rouzan, where it will be the main entrance. Congress is already a popular cut-through street for Perkins Roads motorists looking for a short cut to the I-10 onramp at College Drive.
Freiberg says she is sympathetic but points out that if the city had more connectivity its main arteries wouldn’t be so chronically clogged.
“We’re a different sized city than we were 20 years ago when these neighborhoods were built,” she says.