I-10 widening project officially done

A third lane in each direction is now open on Interstate 10 between the I-10/12 split and Siegen Lane, a state official said Monday, more than a year after the initial target date to finish the work.

“This is a very, very exciting day for all of us,” said Sherri LeBas, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

While all lanes are open, LwBas said, motorists will notice work continues along parts of the corridor and some night-time closures are possible.

Motorists will notice easier traveling times with the additional lane in each direction, giving I-10 three lanes on each side, she said.

About 73,000 motorists use the 4-mile stretch daily, which for years has been the site of daily backups, especially during morning and evening commutes.

The route is used by many traveling to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which serves about 35,000 hospital patients per year, and the Mall of Louisiana, which has about 15 million visitors per year.

State Sens. Bodi White, R-Central, and Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, attended the news conference and ribbon-cutting.

“People were starting to wonder if it would get finished,” White said.

White said the widening work was the subject of discussions in 2006 and 2007 and lawmakers intially were told it would take seven years to begin the expansion.

“It’s been a struggle,” Carter said.

The $86.2 million project began in January 2009.

It was originally supposed to be finished by late 2011.

However, DOTD officials replaced the lead contractor, Austin Bridge & Roads Inc., in 2011 amid complaints that the firm failed to devote enough personnel to finish the work on time.

Austin Bridge officials said the problem stemmed from repeated changes in project plans.

Replacing the firm was the key reason for the delay, and state officials encountered weather problems near the end of the construction.

The work was finished by Boh Bros. Construction Co., of New Orleans, which is the contractor on the widening of I-10 from Siegen Lane to Highland Road.

That $60 million project is set to be done by late spring or early summer.

DOTD officials said in 2011 that Austin Bridge officials would owe the state about $3.4 million once the work was completed.

“We are working with the surety company on this,” LeBas said Monday. “It is a work in progress.”

A lawsuit over the dispute is pending in the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge.