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Neighborhood hires off-duty deputy to help alleviate traffic headache

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BATON ROUGE - Expansion of urban areas could be trapping people in their own neighborhoods. There's so much traffic during the early morning hours from Iberville Parish on LA 30, one neighborhood has hired a sheriff's deputy to help direct traffic.

Since they have the money to do this, homeowner's associations are taking things into their own hands. One neighborhood, the University Club, is spending its HOA fees instead of wasting time sitting in traffic.

Weekday mornings in and out of University Club are very busy with families getting their children to school and professionals going to work. Drivers say they often get stuck trying to enter and exit the neighborhood at certain times of the day because of LA 30. One of them says they spent 15-20 minutes waiting to make a right-hand turn out of her neighborhood.

"It's very difficult," University Club resident Courtney Morel said. "It's a lot of time when you have kids and you're on a tight schedule."

Morel's time has significantly improved recently thanks to an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy who's been hired by University Club HOA to direct traffic.

"Now it's easy to take a right onto the road without having to worry about getting into an accident," she said.

The traffic issues in Baton Rouge are no secret. The intersection of University Club and LA 30 is not the only spot in East Baton Rouge Parish where the sheriff's office or Baton Rouge Police has been hired to direct a large volume of traffic for a specific amount of time.

EBRSO confirms off-duty deputies can be hired by an HOA. The standard rate for the assignment is $35 an hour. 

The University Club HOA hired an EBRSO deputy a few weeks ago to direct traffic in the mornings. University Club HOA Administrator Steve Lousteau says the deputy was hired for the safety of the residents.

"It's made their life a whole lot easier and a lot safer," Lousteau said.

While that may be true, this was not the HOA's first choice. It asked DOTD to do a signal study at that location last year. In December, DOTD found that the location did not meet the guidelines for a signal based on traffic volume and crash data. While DOTD agrees there is a backup in the morning, the length of time for the backup falls short of the guideline for installing a traffic light.

Lousteau agrees there was no justification for a traffic light, he says the traffic volume is growing quickly.

"It's a busy highway, I mean, you have a lot of people going down that road as an alternative route to the interstate," Lousteau said. "We saw that when the Sunshine Bridge was closed, we've seen that when the construction has created problems between Highland and Prairieville."

While the mornings might be easier for residents entering and exiting University Club, it's not better for drivers stacked up along LA 30 or for residents trying to get in and out of neighboring subdivisions, including Lexington Estates or University Club South across the Iberville Parish line. It's why at least one subdivision is making changes right now.

There has been discussion of expanding LA 30 from Brightside Lane to Bluebonnet Boulevard and then Bluebonnet Boulevard to the Iberville Parish line by the City-Parish. The new tax, MovEBR could help pay for that down the line, but a priority project list for the tax has not been established.

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