Call it a road diet; call it a “complete streets” redesign. Either way, Government Street is already changing. The 4.2-mile Mid City corridor has been under construction since January 2018 to trim four lanes down to two with a center turning lane. Bike lanes will line either side for most of the stretch. Construction delays have pushed the completion date into late 2020 or 2021. Area business owners are trying to be patient.
“As annoying as it is right now, I do still believe that once it’s finished it will benefit all of us,” The Market at Circa 1857 owner Garrett Kemp told Business Report.
Since roadwork began, Government Street has attracted trendy new hangouts like White Star Market, Electric Depot and Mid City Beer Garden. And with the street revamp aimed at slowing down cars and encouraging pedestrians, traffic will likely shift to North and Florida boulevards.
More travel on those overlooked roads could increase their viability to developers, and we just might see a renaissance for those areas of Mid City next.
PLANK ROAD’S REDEVELOPMENT
Status: In the planning phase
While Government Street’s redesign is all about walkability, the Plank Road corridor in north Baton Rouge sees pedestrian and public transit mobility as the norm despite a lack of safe infrastructure. It has the region’s highest concentration of households with no access to a car and the second-highest public transit use.
That’s why while Build Baton Rouge (formerly the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority) is targeting the area, and the first order of business is improving public transportation on Plank Road. BBR is working with CATS on a bus rapid-transit line that would be the first of its kind in the state.
The $50 million project’s aim is optimum speed, following a nearly straight line from north Baton Rouge to LSU with limited stops. Elevated platforms at bus stops would allow quick on-and-off, and technology would sync the buses with traffic lights to give them priority.
Meanwhile, the street would be upgraded with safer sidewalks and crosswalks. The work would begin in 2021 with the buses operable by 2023.
Longterm, BBR plans to convert blighted properties along a 1.5-mile section of Plank Road—from Choctaw Drive to Mohican Street—into areas for commercial and residential redevelopment. BBR community engagement specialist Geno McLaughlin says the organization is focused on equitable development in the underserved area. “If we’re going to do development on one side of Baton Rouge, we cannot ignore the other side.”
BBR will present the master plan Nov. 5 at Southern University. ebrra.org
This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.
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