VINTON — Gov. John Bel Edwards joined state transportation officials and legislators Tuesday to break ground on a $152 million project that will widen a nearly 11-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from four lanes to six.
Construction will start at the Louisiana-Texas border to just east of La. 108. Shawn Wilson, state Department of Transportation and Development secretary, said the work will include widening and replacing 10 bridges, and replacing the weigh station along I-10 eastbound. Once the project is finished, it will connect drivers with three lanes to Interstate-210 on the west side of the Calcasieu River bridge.
“It’s going to be safer, faster and smoother than it is today,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the work will be done over three segments to reduce traffic impacts. Work has already begun on the first segment from the state line to La. 109. The project should be done by 2025, he said.
Edwards and Wilson said the project will also benefit freight transportation along the interstate.
State Sen. Mike Reese, R-Leesville, said investing in infrastructure is crucial for Southwest Louisiana to realize opportunities for economic growth.
Rep. Ryan Bourriaque, R-Abbeville, represents the area where the work is taking place. He mentioned how certain stretches of I-10 flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, causing drivers to be rerouted along La. 82. Bourriaque thanked federal and state officials for acknowledging the importance of the Southwest Louisiana region.
“It’s really encouraging to see positive things happen,” he said.
Wilson said officials have also reviewed the number of people who evacuated ahead of Hurricanes Laura and Delta. Widening this section of I-10 will make evacuation quicker, he said.
Johnson Brothers Corporation is the contractor for the project, Wilson said.
Edwards met later in the day with local officials to discuss plans and a timeline for a new I-10 Calcasieu River bridge.
“When you look at the bridge itself and the expanse, you’re talking about a project that’s close to $1 billion,” he said. “It’s an expensive project, but we understand the need for a newer, wider bridge that doesn’t have to get as high as the current bridge.”
Since 2016, Edwards said $367 million has been allocated for more than 65 transportation projects in Calcasieu Parish, stretching over more than 203 miles. He said $3.6 billion has been invested in transportation infrastructure statewide during that time, benefitting roughly 5,000 miles of state roadways.