Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its original publication.
If you’ve driven on Jefferson Highway near Drusilla Lane recently, you’ve probably noticed some pretty significant roadwork that has rendered the center three lanes of Jefferson Highway inaccessible.
The roadwork is part of a roughly $18 million project that will see Jefferson Highway undergo full reconstruction and resurfacing from Drusilla Lane to Airline Highway. The reconstruction and resurfacing will progress in quarter-mile chunks, and improvements to curbs, gutters and sidewalks will also be made. The project is expected to wrap up in the fall of 2025.
According to Bill Grass, public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the project is part of a road transfer program that would see ownership of Jefferson Highway transferred from the state to the city. Because the roadway is in “pretty bad shape,” it needs to be repaired before that transfer can take place, he says.
The road transfer program was established in 2019 in an effort to “right-size the State Highway System,” according to DOTD. In Louisiana, the state owns 27% of public road mileage—significantly higher than the national average of 19%. Only nine states own a higher percentage of public road mileage.
Local governments can opt to participate in the program, as Baton Rouge has. If they do, eligible roads are repaired by the state before ownership is transferred. Once ownership has been transferred, the local governments are credited for 40 years of routine and capital maintenance.
But how is the roadwork affecting businesses in the area?
According to Philly Me Up owner Josh Lee, whose restaurant is located along Jefferson Highway near the current construction zone, it has definitely had an impact.
“There has been a decline in customers, for sure,” Lee says. “It has definitely affected business.”
Kean’s Fine Dry Cleaning, another business located near the construction zone, has seen less disruption, though the roadwork has been a topic of discussion among its customers.
“We have regulars who have been fussing because now they have to go down even farther to turn around and come back up here,” says Tonjue Vignes, who works at Kean’s. “The past few days have been a little slower, but I don’t know if that’s because of Mardi Gras or the road.”
This story originally appeared in a Feb. 12 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.