Public Pressure Causes Change

Louisiana's Department of Transportation leaders say public pressure played a big role in their decision to alter a major construction project on I-10. The 3.5 million dollar repaving and drainage project spans 3 miles on I-10 between the East and West Pearl River Bridges in St. Tammany Parish.

East bound traffic was reduced to one lane during construction, causing traffic tie-ups for miles.

Construction crews are gone for now and all lanes are opened. But in recent days it was a different story.

"Most of the people this past weekend were very, very frustrated some of them were just very irate the traffic was backed up some people said up to 5 hours all the way to Covington," said Cindy Schoonmaker.

Schoonmaker greets interstate travelers at the Hancock County I-10 Welcome Center. She says she and other workers got an ear full from hundreds of angry drivers who got trapped in the traffic.

"A lot of them were very stressed.  One lady had to stay about an hour to calm herself down.  She said she was about to pass out.  She was nauseated from the heat.  The car had run hot on them sitting so long."

Horror stories like that and hundreds of complaints prompted Louisiana's Department of Transportation to limited construction to nights only--Monday through Thursday from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"The traffic through that corridor, the I-10 corridor, is thousands of cars during the day time traveling East and West across the country, so it was a tremendous impact by closing one lane.  I don't think anyone really realized the impact of that. They were backed up well over ten miles in 2 lanes," said St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis.

Davis helped convince the Department of Transportation to alter its original construction plan. He said the down side of limiting construction work is the project will cost more and take longer to finish. A 45-day project could now take up to 3 months to complete.

Right now the project is on hold while the construction company gathers equipment needed to work at night. The overnight construction is scheduled to start June 23rd.