Local officials and law enforcement agreed to put barricades and patrol officers on the LA Hwy. 1 service road to alleviate road rage caused by traffic backups as a result of ongoing repairs to the Intracostal Waterway Bridge during an emergency meeting Thursday.
Signs will inform drivers the service road is for local traffic only beginning at Beaulieu Lane by the Port Allen Wal-Mart. Barricades will be placed near the Red Roof Inn on the service road to prevent vehicles from passing and merging just before the Intracoastal Bridge.
As drivers slow down for the one-inch thick steel plates covering holes in the bridge where joints are being repaired, traffic grinds to a halt. DOTD Project Engineer Chad Robique said driving over the plates at 45 m.p.h is okay, though it may not feel like it. Many drivers aren't convinced and maintain a slow pace along the bumps.
The steel plates and lane closures due to construction caused major delays over the last week. Wednesday evening, the average commute from Brusly to Baton Rouge took about two hours.
Cars fill the LA Hwy 1 service road and other local roads such as Beaulieu Lane as drivers attempt to move a little faster. As tensions rise, drivers speed down the wrong lane of Beaulieu Lane or even on the shoulder of the service road to get a little closer to their destination.
“We need to do something,” Parish President Riley "PeeWee" Berthelot said. “To do nothing is not the answer.”
Berthelot said putting deputies and barricades will not get traffic across the bridge faster, but it will help prevent road rage and accidents.
Lt. Ken Albarez with the WBRSO Traffic Division said the average number of accidents has not increased since the repairs began. That number has stayed at about two per day on weekdays.
Brusly Mayor Scot Rhodes requested Berthelot call the emergency meeting to find solutions and get some relief. Rhodes said business owners along the service road are suffering along with commuters. Traffic should ease when the left lane opens completely, which is expected to happen tomorrow after crews leave at 4 a.m.
Several officials expressed concern for the next portion of the project, which will impact the Southbound lanes of the Intracoastal in the same manner.
“You think we got a problem now,” Deano Moran, Director of Homeland Security and 911 said.
There are a total of 114 joints across the span of the Intracoastal Bridge, 57 of which need repairs. As of Thursday, nine joint replacements are complete, Robique said. Steel plates remain over the joint for three days after repairs.
Robique said the project to last until May, but Berthelot expects it will take longer, he said.