More delays for West Bank ramp project

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 10:20 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 31 at 10:22 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- There is another delay in a project aimed at reducing traffic backups on the Westbank Expressway.

State transportation officials say there are potential problems in the design plans for the long proposed, on and off ramps at Peters Road.

The ramps were supposed to take some of the traffic off of the overly congested interchanges at Manhattan and Barataria Boulevards.

Drivers complain the vehicles start bunching about a half-mile before the exit.

"It's getting worse by the day," said one driver. "I've lived on the West Bank for 30 years and it's just bumper to bumper every day, no matter what time of the day it is."

Another driver said, "The wait is too long. It's just very sad. They need to find a better way."

Local leaders have been pushing for the new ramps for more than a decade.

Now, $4 million and 32 design plans into the project, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development admits it has "constructability concerns" about the project.

"Cars are merging in, accidents are happening and why isn't the road built?" asked state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero. "Why are these thing not being constructed that we were promised."

Connick has been dogging DOTD to build the ramps.

Last November, the department told Eyewitness News, the project would go out for bid in January 2012. DOTD has now hired a third party design firm to review the engineering work done on the project.

"We are committed to getting this project done quickly and safely," said DOTD Communications Director Jodi Conachen. "In order to expedite the project, DOTD is contracting directly with a new design firm who will provide a review of the plans to ensure this much needed construction starts quickly."

"I fault DOTD somewhat for not looking into this sooner," said Connick. "When you have 32 design plans, you think someone would be looking at that and say you can't use it, do it this way."

The original work was done by Metairie-based Design Engineering, Inc., owned by Walter Baudier a major campaign contributor in Jefferson Parish. He did not return our phone call.

"I'm just getting frustrated because I get the calls all the time about why is this thing not finished," said JP Councilman Elton Lagasse, whose district would include the new ramps.

Lagasse said he's not sure if the third party review will be the last delay in the project.

"I'll believe that when I see it," said Lagasse. "I hope it's the last step, yes, so we can get this thing started and get it bid."

The DOTD spokeswoman said depending on what the third party review turns up, the department now hopes to put the Peters Road ramp project out for bid as early as next spring.

 

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