Route I-10 is a four-lane highway that leads into Baton Rouge from the southwest. The heavily traveled interstate regularly experiences delays during rush hour. The average daily traffic (ADT) around the area where the project is taking place is currently 92,000 and is expected to grow to 136,000 by 2040, while the ADT along Pecue Lane is 41,000 and is projected to be 63,000 by 2040.
In addition to the crowdedness of the area, the routes are experiencing higher crash rates. On the nearby corridor of I-10 and Siegen Lane there were 169 crashes last year and on I-10 and Highland Road there were 58. While none of them were fatal, the majority of them resulted in vehicle damage.
Based on the growth projections, the current traffic conditions, and safety issues, mitigations are clearly needed.
During phase one, which began in June 2017 and was complete in October 2017, DOTD did clearing and grubbing work so that the area would be prepared for the more dramatic work of the next phases.
Currently, the team is working on phase two of the project. During this phase, a Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) Wall is being constructed on the north side of I-10. The MSE walls are needed because of the high elevation of Pecue Lane compared to I-10. In addition, they match the rest of the I-10 corridor in Baton Rouge.
On the north side of the interstate, an embankment and base course are being developed. In addition, an existing two-lane bridge is being removed. Two multi-lane bridges will replace it.
During phase three, Pecue Lane will be widened. It will go from a single lane in each direction to two lanes in each direction. Additional work includes reconstruction of a railroad crossing, replacement and construction of a bridge, construction of a local road to connect to Pecue lane, construction of the on and off ramps on I-10, and construction of a diverging diamond interchange (DDI).
A DDI, which is intended to improve safety and mobility by minimizing access points for left hand turns, allows high volumes of traffic to travel through an intersection without additional lanes or traffic signals. Compared to conventional interchanges, a DDI can be more cost effective.
“We expect the DDI will help traffic flow more smoothly,” said Mallet, “and we see it as a good fit with the new on and off ramps to I-10.” It will also provide another exit alternative than the high traffic sections of Highland Road and Siegen Lane.
Louisiana’s weather makes every construction project a challenge. Because Louisiana is the second wettest state in the country – behind Hawaii – construction crews are used to dealing with the elements and are keenly aware that schedules may need to be adjusted.
Construction on phase two of the Pecue Lane project began in the summer of 2019. It was originally scheduled to be complete by late 2020. However, due to weather issues, the new estimated completion date is fall 2021.
“We had a very wet winter of 2019/2020 and the beginning of the summer of 2020 was wet as well. We also had to deal with hurricanes,” said Mallet.
Because of the wet weather, dirt work had to be delayed. Despite the weather challenges, Mallet believes it may be possible to complete the project on time if crews can get a stretch of dry weather.
“We’re in this type of situation a lot down here because of our unique weather and ground conditions,” said Mallet. “Then we reach a stretch and get great amounts of work accomplished and are extremely productive which can make up for lost time.”
The current phase is about 25 percent of total costs, and the final phase makes up the bulk of the expenses. Phase three, which is in the pre-construction phase, will proceed once funding is secured. “Funding for the third phase is a concern,” said Mallet. “However, we are optimistic that we can make it work and be innovative in our funding.”
When the entire project is complete, it will ease traffic on two highly congested state routes. It will also positively impact city roads and will provide more options for local commuters like Mallet who is a resident of the area. “I travel this route often and am ready for this project to be complete.”
With the Baton Rouge area continuing to grow, projects such as the Pecue Lane/ I-10 Interchange Project are critical to enabling commuters to get their destinations in a reasonable time.