Traffic easing plans eyed for Range Ave., Pete’s Highway

Improving traffic flow for the Interstate 12 interchange at Range Avenue in Denham Springs could mean splitting the ramps with nearby Pete’s Highway, drawing at least some traffic away from Range Avenue and giving drivers more direct access to Pete’s Highway.

State transportation officials are weighing the options after years of development along Range Avenue have increased traffic demand, said Mike Sasser, public involvement coordinator for the project.

Reducing congestion on Range is the primary goal of the project, Sasser said.

Two of three alternative proposals the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is considering would split the I-12 ramps between Range and La. 16, known locally as Pete’s Highway, said project manager Scott Hoffeld, of Arcadis.

A third would focus more on changing the traffic patterns along Range as it passes under the interstate.

The three proposals will be discussed in detail along with a looping visual presentation during an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of Southside Junior High, 26535 Pete’s Highway.

Preliminary estimates for construction costs indicate the project could run between $20 million and $40 million, depending on which alternative is chosen, Sasser said. Those estimates were put together in November 2012 during the feasibility phase of the project.

DOTD had identified about $9.4 million in federal funding available for the project at the time, Sasser said.

In February, the project moved into second gear, beginning a yearlong environmental assessment and planning stage, Hoffeld said.

It is during this stage that much of the data collection, traffic analysis and field work is done, so the three proposals — and their costs — could change considerably, he said.

Alternative one focuses primarily on changing traffic patterns on Range Avenue.

Traffic flow would shift from the right side of the road to the left before passing under the interstate. By doing this, vehicles making a left turn onto an interstate on-ramp would not have to cross oncoming traffic.

“It’s similar to the type of movement you experience at Airline and Sherwood or Siegen,” Hoffeld said. “There, if you’re going west on Airline and want to turn left onto Siegen, you shift from the right side of regular travel to the left so you can turn without any oncoming traffic.

“Basically, it just reduces conflicts,” he said.

Alternatives two and three focus more on diverting some traffic from Range Avenue to Pete’s Highway.

“The initial sense is that a lot of the traffic on Range is attempting to access Pete’s,” Sasser said.

Pete’s Highway does not have an interchange, so many drivers access I-12 via Range Avenue using Rushing Road north of the interstate or Vincent Road to the south.

With about 50,000 cars using Range Avenue on an average day, the traffic can become prohibitive, Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin said.

Some residents have suggested building a new interchange at Pete’s Highway, an option Durbin said he has been advocating since he was a city councilman in the 1990s.

However, federal highway regulations prohibit placing two interchanges within 1 mile of each other, Sasser said.

Range Avenue and Pete’s Highway are about a half-mile apart.

Instead, alternatives two and three would split the interchange. The eastbound off-ramp and westbound on-ramp would remain at Range while the eastbound on-ramp and westbound off-ramp would move to Pete’s.

Two collector-distributor roads, similar to one-way service roads, would connect Range Avenue and Pete’s Highway, allowing traffic to move more easily from one to the other.

Both alternatives would use roundabouts at Pete’s Highway — two in alternative two, three in alternative three — and a second overpass across I-12 in addition to the existing two-lane structure.

All three alternatives would add lanes to the interchange ramps at Range Avenue.

Durbin said he believes alternative two holds the most promise.

“With the volume of traffic we’re seeing in Denham Springs, and continued growth and development south of the city, and with Range pretty much built out, I think Pete’s Highway will continue to see more and more development,” Durbin said.

Alternative one would not address the needs at Pete’s Highway, Durbin said, and alternative three would have a more significant impact on adjoining property owners than alternative two.

“The only negative impact I see would be the development of the nursing home designed to go on the property on the northeast quadrant at Pete’s,” Durbin said, referring to the proposed relocation of Harvest Manor Nursing Home from Cockerham Road.

The environmental assessment phase will continue until February, when DOTD officials must select a “preferred alternative,” Sasser said.

“Once they have that, they can present it to the Federal Highway Administration and hopefully get approval for it,” Sasser said. “Then the project will be in a position to fight for funding, both for the design and then the construction.”

Information about the project is available online at www.peteshighway.com. Comments may be submitted on the site.

“Realistically, we’re years away from seeing yellow bulldozers show up and start to move dirt,” Sasser said. “However, this is the point in time where the stakeholders in Livingston Parish, and specifically Denham Springs, can come in and have their say as to what’s important to them.”