Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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I-12 widening project expected to begin 2021

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BATON ROUGE - The plan to expand I-12 in hopes of reducing daily traffic jams within the 15-mile stretch between the I-10/12 split and Walker is expected to begin in 2021.  

The state secretary for the Department of Transportation and Development, Shawn Wilson, was given the authority to helm the project in 2019. The work will include the conversion of a section of Baton Rouge's I-12 from shoulder space to a high occupancy vehicle lane.

Wilson hopes to see the project completed as swiftly as possible. That's why he'll speak with the Joint Transportation Committee on Thursday, which includes members from the House and Senate, about putting all the work into one contract to speed the process.

Wilson said the plan for expansion has several advantages, especially since the state has a $14 billion backlog of road and bridge projects and an unwillingness by state leaders to raise the state gas tax – the chief source of transportation aid.

"It allows us to increase the capacity of I-12," Wilson said. "It is a low-cost way of doing it. I don't have to build new pavement."

At this time, the total costs of the work remains unclear.

Wilson said new striping will cost about $2 million and some of that work can be done at night.

The HOV lanes will be limited during morning and evening commutes to cars and trucks with two or more people.

During other times it would be available for other motorists willing to pay perhaps five or seven cents per mile.

In both cases moving some vehicles to an HOV lane will lighten traffic on the free lanes.

Similar conversions of shoulder lanes to HOV lanes could eventually take place on other stretches of I-12, Wilson said.

Whether the state will rely on license plates, stickers or other methods to collect payments has not been decided.

However, all payments will be electronic.

The state is asking for permission to make the work a public/private partnership rather than splitting it into three contracts: construction, engineering and operations.

Officials plan to ask for authority to use a transportation services contract, which Wilson said offers more flexibility.

He said there are multiple firms nationally that do the work.

The expansion was pushed by former state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, who has long complained about how long it was taking for the conversion to become reality.

Erdey said last year that he hoped motorists would be able to use it in 2020.


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