Governor, mayor launch new phase of Pecue Lane/I-10 overhaul
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on Friday announced the start of a new phase of the $55 million Pecue Lane project, which will include an interchange on heavily-traveled Interstate 10 aimed at easing daily traffic backups.
"The entire corridor has to be improved," Edwards said during a gathering on Pecue Lane near I-10 in south Baton Rouge.
A total of 92,000 motorists use that section of I-10 daily and 41,000 cars and trucks use the affected portion of Pecue Lane each day.
Both are sites of near daily backups, especially during morning and evening rush hours. Those figures are set to rise to 136,000 and 63,000 respectively in the next 20 years.
The project includes the widening of Pecue between Perkins Road and Airline Highway, which will improve access to Woman's Hospital.
Rieger Road, which is parallel to I-10, will be connected to Pecue.
In addition, the existing two-lane bridge over I-10 will be replaced by two, multi-lane bridges.
Broome appeared to use the occasion to make a case against efforts by residents of unincorporated St. George to become the fifth city in the parish, which voters in southeast Baton Rouge will decide on Oct. 12.
She said she was approached about the project shortly after taking office as mayor by state Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, who represents parts of St. George, and Metro Councilman Dwight Hudson.
"This is an important and significant milestone for Baton Rouge and the region," she said. "When we work together as a community we accomplish great things."
The work that was ceremoniously launched Friday is the second phase of a three-phase undertaking and totals $13.6 million.
It includes stabilizing earth walls on both sides of I-10 and erecting the new bridges.
Phase One included clearing and grubbing and cost about $6 million.
The third and final phase is the most expensive, about $34 million.
It will include the widening of Pecue Lane, construction of on- and off-ramps linked to I-10 and construction of a state-of-the-art intersection that will be one of the first of its kind in Louisiana.
The project should be finished by 2021 or 2022, said Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The interchange is called a diverging diamond.
It will not have a stoplight at the end of the exit, which is typical for interstate travel.
Edwards joked that he does not pretend to understand how the configuration will work. "He (Wilson) just told me it is the greatest thing since sliced bread," the governor said.
Edwards said the project is being funded in part with federal dollars from other states that Louisiana garnered when those states failed to use the money in time.
In the past, the state has been in danger of failing to qualify for some federal dollars because of state budget problems.
"Without surplus dollars we would not have been in a position to do it," said Edwards, who is on the Oct. 12 ballot in his bid for a second term.
State officials announced Friday that the state will finish the financial year on June 30 with a $500 million surplus, up from earlier estimates of $300 million and part of a controversy on whether the state is overtaxing residents to prevent budget problems.
Edwards said the state has collected about $500 million in unused federal transportation funds from other states in the past 12 years, with just over half collected in the past three years.
The project includes state, federal and city-parish funds and is part of the city-parish's Green Light Plan.
The governor credited U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, for assistance on the Pecue Lane and other projects.
Paul Sawyer, chief of staff for Graves, noted that Pecue Lane and other plans on been on the drawing boards for years, including a new Terrace Avenue exit near completion off I-110 South.