Turning restrictions to ease

Construction on the intersection of O’Neal Lane and South Harrell’s Ferry Road in southeast Baton Rouge will enter its fourth and final phase Dec. 15, allowing workers to lift restrictions on some left turns at the intersection, city-parish officials said Tuesday.

That same day, officials expect to open O’Neal Lane between South Harrell’s Ferry Road and George O’Neal Road, which has been closed since Oct. 2, said John Snow of SSA consultants, a firm representing the city-parish on the project.

Motorists headed south on O’Neal Lane will still be prevented from turning left on South Harrell’s Ferry while workers prepare a dedicated turn lane, Snow said.

Left turns from South Harrell’s Ferry onto O’Neal in both directions will be permitted, as will left turns from northbound O’Neal Lane to westbound South Harrell’s Ferry, Snow said.

Left turns at the intersection of O’Neal and South Harrell’s Ferry have been restricted since July 16, Snow said.

During the closures, motorists have had to take a right turn and make a U-turn in order to turn left.

Those wishing to travel from the intersection of O’Neal and South Harrell’s Ferry to the intersection of O’Neal Lane and George O’Neal Road have had to detour on South Harrell’s Ferry and Jones Creek Road.

The turning restrictions were necessary because traffic was backing up from the intersection of O’Neal and South Harrell’s Ferry to Interstate 12, officials said in July.

After the turning restrictions went to effect, local residents crowded a July public meeting at a church hosted by city-parish Department of Public Works officials to complain about the closure.

Many of them criticized the added delays in travel times due to the ongoing construction work on O’Neal Lane and South Harrell’s Ferry and Millerville roads.

The state also closed Woodlake Bridge, citing deficiencies, reducing the number of alternative routes from neighborhoods east of O’Neal Lane.

Interim DPW Director David Guillory said Tuesday that significant progress has been made in the I-12-O’Neal Lane corridor since July. The work includes completion of the widening of South Harrell’s Ferry Road from Jones Creek Road to South Sherwood Forest Boulevard and completion of the widening of Millerville Road from South Harrell’s Ferry Road to I-12.

The widening of Jones Creek Road from Coursey Boulevard to South Harrell’s Ferry Road was completed in 2011.

Officials had hoped to start Phase 4 on the intersection of O’Neal Lane and South Harrell’s Ferry Road on Dec. 8, but were delayed by bad weather in November, Snow said in a news release.

Jason Jacob, a Shenandoah resident, said removing the turning restrictions would be a welcome move.

“Any sort of improvements in that area is going to be a major plus,” he said. “I think people are definitely looking forward to that part being finished.”

The fourth phase of the project is expected to take three to four months, Snow said in a press release.

The project is part of the Green Light Plan, a road and infrastructure improvement plan approved by voters in 2005 and paid for by a half-cent sales tax.