State wraps up work on Jefferson’s busiest I-10 exit

A massive project designed to reduce congestion at Jefferson Parish’s busiest exit from Interstate 10 officially wrapped up on Tuesday, and a state transportation official called the work an economic driver for the parish.

Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas staged a ribbon-cutting for the Causeway Boulevard Interchange project on Veterans Boulevard across from the main reason the roadwork was needed: Lakeside Mall. LeBas said that the conclusion of the $86.6 million project, which added five different ramps to the Causeway Boulevard exit, has already paid dividends and will continue to benefit parish residents.

“Thanks to this project, congestion on I-10 has significantly improved,” LeBas said. She added that based on transportation industry figures, the interchange dropped from the 78th most congested interchange in America to the 124th.

The state made the improvements in two phases starting in 2009. LeBas said the $35.6 million first phase was paid for with a combination of state and federal money, while the second phase was funded entirely by federal stimulus dollars.

LeBas called the project part of a continued investment in Jefferson Parish, which has seen $756 million in construction since 2008. That figure does not include the $1.2 billion Huey P. Long bridge-widening project which is projected to be completed by June 16.

The new ramps are designed to improve access to Veterans Boulevard by giving drivers clearer choices when exiting the freeway. Those individuals traveling to St. Tammany Parish can more easily bypass Veterans Boulevard, while travelers headed to Lakeside Shopping Center have a simpler path, LeBas noted.

David Colomb, the marketing director for Lakeside, said that improved access is a boon for the facility, which is the largest sales tax revenue producer in the parish. He praised DOTD for how well it communicated plans to the mall and discussed potential issues.

“The DOTD was a great partner in this,” Colomb said. “We at Lakeside could not be happier with having this project completed.”

In addition to the Causeway project, the state is working on a widening project between the Veterans Boulevard and Clearview Parkway exits. Construction crews recently installed sound walls as part of that $42.2 million project, which also is expected to be completed this year. However, District Administrator Michael Stack said that no additional work is planned for the Causeway Boulevard area.

“This pretty much does it,” Stack said.

However, Rocky Troxler, a Kenner resident, complained that the changes really didn’t address the westbound traffic problems because at certain points the interstate reduces from four lanes to three lanes and causes congestion. He acknowledged that the project addressed problems with entering and exiting the interstate, but said the traffic problems weren’t touched.

“Why did they do that?” Troxler asked. “They need to be questioned on that.”

State officials said about 178,000 drivers use the Causeway Boulevard interchange daily. The project included elevated on-ramps and ground level on-ramps on both sides of I-10. Construction crews also widened the roadway and relocated utilities.