walker roundabout

The roundabouts in Walker at Interstate 12 and La. 447.

With the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) holding a community meeting and unveiling the results in favor of dedicated left-turn lanes for most of Range Avenue between Interstate 12 and Florida Boulevard, the emergence of a large-scale DOTD project opens the door for a trip down memory lane to pre-flood “pie-in-the-sky” projects.   

The roughly six-mile stretch of I-12, between the La. 447 exit in Walker and the Amite River Bridge, has been oft-studied for traffic relief programs.

Once the I-12 widening project was given a Bush-esque “Mission Complete” send-off – although the wall still remained to wreck havoc four years later – DOTD moved on to address traffic flow for the three main intersections – Denham Springs, Juban, and Walker.

For Walker, the initial roundabouts in their project were completed at the I-12–La. 447 interchange.

Their construction was, in hindsight, smaller than what would have been necessary to accommodate the traffic levels through the area and have resulted in an average of two accidents per day since their opening.

The second tier of the project was (is?) to install roundabouts along La. 447 north, stretching to U.S. 190.

The cost estimate ranged from $5 million to $7.5 million, depending on the number of roundabouts, but it is important to note that the initial project scope included a widening of the I-12 overpass.

Also important to note – that’s just the cost for the study, not the actual project.

Moving west, at Juban Road, DOTD planned to pick up where it left off – after road expansion to accommodate Juban Crossing and future developments – by widening the entirety of Juban Road north, again to U.S. 190.

Three roundabouts were projected for the project, one of which is already under construction at U.S. 190 and Juban Road itself.

The Parish Council had proposals in 2015 to extend Juban Road – dubbed “Juban Road North” – but funding and disagreements between DOTD, Canadian Northern Railroad, property owners, and the council members themselves derailed that local piece of the project.

The widening would include a 5-foot wide, raised median as well as subsurface drainage as well as sub-roads along most of the improvement.

Continuing west! Next up, Pete’s Highway and the interstate, an area marked as a good way to relieve the stress of vehicles getting off the interstate at Range Avenue by building longer off-ramps and giving motorists a choice of the two roads.

4-H Club also was considered in the plan.

Of course, the 2016 flood knocked all of these plans off track and it’s hard to say they would have ever come to fruition in our lifetimes, anyway.

DOTD is focused on a new bridge and these projects, totaling several hundred million dollars, would take away from that present effort.

But credit must be given to our legislators and local officials for pushing to at least have the studies begun and the projects considered on the long backlog of the DOTD’s infamous “wish list.”

The process in Louisiana always starts with a study and, with some completed and some never started, at least when self-driving cars become mainstream a time will be remembered when 70,000 motorists per day swarmed the I-12 corridor and it was, simply, a mess.

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