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Amid complaints over barrier walls, state will redesign feature that dammed flood water

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BATON ROUGE – The state will redesign tall, concrete barriers along newly constructed interstates in Louisiana following the August 2016 flood where people in Livingston Parish have blamed much of the disaster on barriers that dammed water on one side of I-12.

The flood issue is the center of a lawsuit, though DOTD told The Advocate newspaper Thursday, the redesigned barriers are not an admission of wrongdoing on previous work.

The state told WBRZ Thursday, the changes will be seen in the Baton Rouge area along both I-10 and I-12 where construction has either already started or is planned.

On I-10, construction is set to start early next year on an expansion between Highland Road in Baton Rouge and the Prairieville exit in Ascension Parish. Monday, people who live along the interstate expressed concerns that the eventual concrete barriers there – previously said to be identical to the ones in Livingston Parish – would cause catastrophic flooding in another August 2016-like event.

Two people who shared their concerns with WBRZ said water was just inches from their homes then.

"We were so close before a wall, I can't imagine what would happen with a wall," Emily LeBlanc said. 

"We've seen examples of poor planning and failing to maintain systems properly," Hugo Marrero said in agreement. "As we observe things in New Orleans, we certainly don't want to have another catastrophe like that flood. We can't control rain, but we can control where it goes."

Monday, DOTD's chief, Shawn Wilson, said interstates can't be designed for 1,000 year flood events. But, changed his approach a few days later when saying Thursday, designs have been reviewed.

     > READ and WATCH the previous WBRZ report on the barrier concern in Ascension HERE

Two-inch tall, 10 or 12-inch wide holes will be built into future barrier walls in an effort to allow water to pass. The walls are designed to keep speeding cars from careening across lanes of the interstate and causing a head-on crash. Wilson clarified, however, that the holes are only meant to drain water not prevent another historic flood.

Barriers built along the stretch of I-12 under construction now in the Satsuma area will also feature the redesign. Barriers added to work west of the Basin Bridge toward Lafayette will also have the holes when those are completed.

The barriers vary in height – between two and four feet tall. 

I-10 between EBR and Ascension is set to be expanded from two lanes in each direction to three. 

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