Posted: Mar 19, 2014 11:02 AM by Russell Jones & Rob Krieger
Updated: Mar 19, 2014 7:00 PM
BATON ROUGE - City-parish officials revealed plans Wednesday to redesign Government Street in Baton Rouge from a four-lane road to a two-lane highway with a dedicated turning lane and bicycle lanes.
Mayor Kip Holden said the multi-million dollar project, which stretches from I-110 to Lobdell Avenue, will be covered entirely by the state. Government is the first highway to be redesigned after it was transferred from state control to the city-parish.
"I've always believed if there are problems with traffic flow or safety, the public doesn't care if it's a state or local road - they just want it fixed," Holden said. "That's why with both the Green Light Program and this transfer, our goal has been to address our most critical needs."
Merchants in Mid-City think the changes will mean big business for the corridor.
"I would estimate that every store and business along Government Street will see a 20-30 percent increase in sales, just from making Government Street a destination, a safer place to be, it's going to attract all kinds of attention," said Gordon Mese, who runs Garden District Nursery on Government.
Travis Hans, the owner of Mid-City Bikes hopes the move will improve the neighborhood.
"I believe in Mid-City, that's why I'm here, that's why I live in this neighborhood, that's why I set my shop up, that's why I try not to leave Mid-City if I can help it, it's the most pleasant part of Baton Rouge to me," said Hans.
City officials believe adding a turning lane will reduce the number of wrecks seen on Government Street. Holden said Government sees about 270 crashes each year between Jefferson Highway and the interstate, most of which are rear end or left turn crashes and near-wrecks.
"Being able to flow and not having to worry about getting run over by traffic or slowing down, it's easier for people to get in and out, it gives it more of a neighborhood feel and that's what we've been trying to do this for the last 20 years, so it can be more pedestrian friendly, where you can walk around, hang out," said Brian Medlin, who owns Smokin' Aces BBQ.
The project would get underway immediately with construction starting by the end of 2014 or early 2015 and completed by the end of 2015.