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Issues linger after completion of Government Street "Road Diet" Project

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BATON ROUGE - The Government Street "Road Diet" Project is doing exactly what designers intended - slowing down traffic and making the road safer for pedestrians. The project is now ready to be turned over to East Baton Rouge Parish, but they are encountering some roadblocks along the way.

“It’s not like we cut the ribbon and give them the keys to the car. We have to go through the legal process," said Rodney Mallett with DOTD.

Mallet says DOTD and the City-Parish government are working together to transfer ownership of the road, but there is no clear timeline on when their plans will come to fruition.

To add to the complications, the medians that were built by taking away one lane from each direction, are too wide between Jefferson Highway and Lobdell Avenue. The City-Parish approved the job anyway, claiming it still worked and accommodated the route.

"The medians in the residential area are wider than the plans called for. However, the city looked at it and felt it was accommodating for the route, so there were and are not any changes necessary. My project contact did not tell me it was not built to spec because there was no change order and the city accepted it and thought it would be beneficial to that part of the project," said Mallett via email.

Drivers continuously run into the medians, creating unsightly shrubbery and damage. To combat this, Mallett says a landscaping company will begin regularly tending to the flowerbeds in the median beginning November 1.

“From the beginning of the whole project, part of the contract included landscape maintenance, and so we see this kind of activity when driving patterns change. Once the people who drive Government St. drive it regularly, get used to driving it, we anticipate this kind of activity to drop off," said Mallett.

Another issue surrounding Government Street are the CATS buses, which have been operating along North Street as an alternate route since mid-2018 while construction was underway. However, now that work is wrapped up, CATS still doesn't have a plan as to when the buses will return to their normal routes.

Once the buses do make their long-awaited return, they plan to have buses stop in areas where there are no medians. CATS C.O.O Dwana Williams told WBRZ this will allow for traffic to flow around the stopped bus, which means cars will illegally use the turn lanes.

"CATS has strategically planned to place bus stops in locations where the newly installed medians are not adjacent, allowing traffic to flow around a stopped bus," said Williams.

Despite the lingering issues, businesses along Government Street are satisfied with the outcome.

“I feel like we’ve definitely picked up a little bit because of the sidewalks and bike lanes," said Hannah Cox with French Truck Coffee.

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