by Will Sentell
Capitol news bureau
July 16, 2012
The widening of Interstate 10 between the I-10/12 split and Siegen Lane may be finished by the end of the year, state Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas said.
“We are shooting for a completion at the end of this year, 2012,” LeBas said in a wide-ranging interview on several Baton Rouge area highway projects.
“It could roll into the early part of 2013, but we are making significant progress and moving that project toward completion,” she said.
The work between Siegen Lane and Highland Road, which costs $60 million to add a new lane in each direction, has been relatively trouble-free.
The completion date is mid-2013.
But the work between the split and Siegen Lane, which costs about $86 million, has been the source of several glitches.
That portion of the work was originally supposed to be done by late 2011.
But DOTD officals announced in May of that year that the work was 10 months behind schedule and the new target completion date was the fall of 2012.
Then state officials announced in December 2011 that it might be 2013 before the work was done when DOTD replaced the lead contractor on the split-Siegen Lane portion of the project.
Austin Bridge & Road Inc., which is based in a Dallas suburb, was replaced by Boh Bros. Construction of New Orleans, which was already the contractor on the Siegen Lane-Highland Road part of the work.
“We have made great progress since we switched out the contractor,” LeBas said.
Work on the additional lanes between the I-10/12 split and Siegen Lane began in January, 2009.
However, the widening work is also the site of near daily slowdowns, especially between Essen Lane and Siegen Lane.
DOTD closed the Essen Lane exit for eastbound traffic on I-10 from 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday.
The connection between I-12 westbound traffic and I-10 eastbound — known as the flyover — was closed from 9 p.m. Friday until 10 a.m. Saturday, also because of the project.
In another area, LeBas said she hopes to begin holding public meetings late this year or in early 2013 on options for widening I-10 between the new Mississippi River Bridge and Essen Lane.
Eastbound travel off the bridge is the site of regular backups, especially after 3 p.m. on weekdays.
But finding ways to fix it has sparked heavy controversy.
About a decade ago state leaders proposed a $200 million plan, which died amid heavy criticism from store owners and others in the Perkins Road overpass area.
Some area residents, including in the Washington Street area, have said that widening the interstate could jeopardize their neighborhoods.
Many business owners remain wary, and contend that any widening work could destroy their long-established barber shops, drug stores and restaurants.
LeBas said in December that she hoped public meetings searching for solutions would begin in March.
She said the need for traffic data, among other things, has slowed the timetable.
“My personal and professional opinion is we need to look at doing something between the bridge and the split,” LeBas said.
LeBas said citizen surveys are planned to gather opinions.
“We will also be reaching out to the community groups that are along the corridor, neighborhood associations, legislators,” she said.
Last month the state opened a newly widened stretch of I-12 between O’Neal Lane and Juban Road, which cost $146 million.
Next on the list is the addition of a new lane in each direction between Juban Road and Walker.
It will cost about $22 million and is set to be done by mid-2013.
LeBas said I-12 between Walker and Satsuma will also be widened.
It will cost $10 million-$15 million, DOTD officials said.
State Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, said that work will improve traffic and public safety.
“In addition to that it creates economic development opportunities along the interstate,” Erdey said.