Road configuration changes in works for downtown BR

In an effort to improve the flow of traffic between LSU’s campus and downtown Baton Rouge, St. Ferdinand and St. Louis streets will become two-way roads before the end of the year.

The project was conceived about six years ago and approved in 2010, but a series of delays have pushed construction into this year.

St. Ferdinand Street becomes Highland Road and St. Louis Street becomes Nicholson Drive. However, both streets are one-way, which means drivers are diverted to other streets when heading downtown from LSU.

Davis Rhorer, director of the Downtown Development District, said the road system forces drivers coming from LSU into the Beauregard Town neighborhood, a situation that has long been a source of irritation for those residents.

“We’ll now have the infrastructure for continuous flow, which takes the burden off the neighborhood and gives drivers great views of downtown,” he said.

The change will provide a smoother and more fluid connection from LSU all the way to the State Capitol.

The Nicholson Corridor has recently become a high-priority area for the city-parish with the announcement of the Water Campus and plans to operate a streetcar down the thoroughfare.

Rhorer said providing the back-and-forth connectivity is an important first step.

“It links in better and ties LSU, Old South Baton Rouge and downtown as one,” he said.

The project has about a $1 million price tag, and is expected to take about five months to complete.

The funding comes from dedicated state sales tax rebates for downtown.

It includes installation of new traffic signal equipment, which is the largest expense, and restriping. Construction is expected to begin in June, once the traffic signals arrive.

Rhorer said the changes also will increase access to the River Center parking garages on the two streets. The garages had only one entrance from St. Louis Street via Government Street, but the road changes will create three entrance points.

Some street parking on the two roads also will be eliminated because of the change, but DPW officials could not say how many street parking spots will be lost.

Rhorer said other downtown projects in recent years have added spaces to account for the losses, so there will not be a net loss of parking.