Louisiana Department of Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson says not to read too much into the fact that the environmental assessment report on the proposed widening of Interstate 10 through Baton Rouge may not be publicly available until November.
On the contrary, Wilson says, the environmental review process, which has been underway since 2018, is going well, considering that consultants have had to weigh the impact of the project on two historic districts and a cluster of merchants near the Perkins Road Overpass.
“Since we started the EA, there were new historic districts that were established and a cluster of buildings that meet certain standards that had not been identified when we started,” Wilson says. “So consistent with our commitment to work with key stakeholders we opted to do our due diligence as it relates to the project on these districts.”
The neighborhoods—Hundred Oaks and Old South Baton Rouge—are not officially designated as historic districts at the local or federal level, nor have either applied to become one. But both comprise many residential structures that are at least 50 years old, and some much older, and some residents have expressed concern about what the $350 million project, estimated to take as many as 10 years to complete, would mean to their area.
Merchants in the Overpass area, meanwhile, have long had concerns about what widening I-10 will do to their small businesses, as they stand, literally in the shadows of the elevated portion of highway.
Wilson says his office has received a draft report of the environmental assessment and has begun reviewing it but he wouldn’t give a hint as to what it recommends for those neighborhoods and business, or how it proposes dealing with the inevitable traffic congestion the project will bring through the busiest stretch of highway in the city.
But after his staff has reviewed the report and made any necessary changes, it will be posted and available for public review for 45 days before a final public hearing.