Louisiana Redesigns Deadly Intersection

February 8, 2012

The state will seek bids later this month for a construction project to redesign the intersection of La. Highway 1 and Sugar Plantation Parkway in Addis.

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development spokesman Brendan Rush tells The Advocate the state plans to install J-turns, which would add two dedicated lanes along the median for drivers to use to turn onto La. 1.

The idea, he said, is to improve safety and traffic flow at the intersection by giving more length of road to drivers planning to head north or south.

But many residents of nearby Sugar Mill Plantation are opposed to the J-turn plan. Some of them have promised to fight DOTD until the state relents and installs a traffic signal.

Sugar Mill Plantation resident Josh Hinton, 28, is one of the lead voices in the movement to have a traffic light installed.

Hinton said he was involved in a wreck in 2009 when he turned left into the subdivision from the La. 1 northbound lanes.

Late last year, Elise Jean Boudreaux, 68, and her mother, Thelma Bizette, 87, died from injuries they received in a wreck at the intersection.

In April, Ann Hope Browne, 54, the sister of LSU football coach Les Miles, died in a traffic accident at the intersection when she attempted to merge onto La. 1.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have been in wrecks I’ve seen in the five years I’ve lived in Sugar Mill,” Hinton said. “There are too many decisions to make, and people are kind of forced into making bad decisions with the volume of traffic we have.”

Hinton said it’s difficult for drivers who are turning right out of the development onto La. 1 southbound to see oncoming traffic when there is a vehicle in the right turn lane, turning into the subdivision.

The J-turn plan will only further complicate a driver’s decision making, he said, because drivers turning right onto La. 1 will have only a few hundred feet to merge into the J-turn lane, turn slightly to the left, come to a stop and then merge onto La. 1 northbound.

“We’re going to fight this thing. With the J-turns, we’re looking at December before something gets done when we could put in a red light in two weeks,” he said. “DOTD doesn’t know the final plan for the subdivision. You’re going to spend all that money on J-turns and then put in a traffic light later when enough people move in. Let’s spend the money now. You’ve got to be smart with taxpayer money.”

DOTD officials estimate that it would cost $500,000 to install a traffic signal while the J-turn project is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

Bert Moore, a traffic operations engineer with DOTD, added that J-turns will cut out some of the riskier decisions people currently have to make.

“You won’t have to look to the left and have to worry about what someone’s doing in the median, then getting to the median and worrying about people coming off of La. 1 or the service road,” he said.

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