In addition to the need to helping the commute of local motorists, the route expansion will have a national benefit. This is because I-12 is part of a vital freight corridor that connects Florida to Texas.
Besides impediments to the flow of traffic and the national ramifications, there are safety issues along this stretch of road. Multiple accidents have occurred along the stretch, including a 2018 incident that left four people killed and others injured. Local residents view the stretch of interstate as dangerous.
As part of the first segment, just over 3 miles of the stretch are being widened. Other elements of the first segment include an asphalt overlay of the existing lanes, installation of a concrete median protection, and widening of three bridges.
In the other current segment, a little more than 4 miles of interstate will be widened. Similar work is being done in this segment, including widening the pavement surface into the median, overlaying the existing lanes with asphalt, and installing concrete median protection. In addition, one bridge is being widened.
I-12 passes over the Tchefuncte River, a navigable, scenic river. Permits had to be obtained from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries – due to it being a scenic river – and also from the United States Coast Guard because it’s a navigable waterway.
“All permits and environmental considerations were addressed prior to beginning construction of the bridge,” says Chris Welty, a Public Information Officer for DOTD. Securing permits for projects prior to going to bid is standard procedure for DOTD.
Widening the bridge required the team to use 54-inch cylindrical piles as they match the existing structure piling design.
The total construction cost for the I-12 widening is nearly $114 million. Segment two is budgeted at slightly over $59 million. A significant amount of the funding for the project – $25 million – was paid for via a federal BUILD grant. This is the maximum BUILD grant award amount. According to the USDOT, criteria for BUILD grants “include safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental sustainability, state of good repair, innovation, and partnership.”
The BUILD Grant funds only apply to the stretch from LA 21 to US 190. The remaining funds are coming from a variety of sources, including $7.2 million from St. Tammany Parish, $22.3 million from other federal sources, and $4.6 million from the state.
One segment of the project is ahead of schedule and the other segment is very close to being on schedule. Segment one of the project began in the spring of 2020 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2022. The second segment began in the fall of 2020 and construction is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2023. The final phase has yet to be scheduled.
With the significant growth in population that St. Tammany Parish has already experienced as well as continued growth, infrastructure needs to keep up. This project will help the area do that. “Once complete, the project will ease congestion and allow motorists and commerce to flow more easily,” says Welty.