Community continues to fight DOTD plans

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Sunday, February 5, 2012 - 11:35pm

First the sister of LSU Coach Les Miles was killed at the intersection in April, then two others died in a December car accident, but many others, like Shelli Bourque, have crashed and lived to tell the dangers of the intersection.

"September 22, 2010, I was broadsided," Bourque said. "I'm lucky to be alive."

The residents want improvements and the Department of Transportation and Development said their studies call for a j-turn to be installed at the Addis intersection of LA 1 and Sugar Plantation Parkway.

"Only have to deal with two lanes of traffic traveling in one direction, as opposed to potentially five movements trying to cut across and get in," said DOTD spokesman Brendan Rush, in justification of the j-turn.

People who drive the intersection have serious concerns. They rallied in December against the j-turn, saying a traffic signal would save lives.

"Just not that easy for a school bus, or 18 -wheeler to make a u-turn," said Addis Police Chief Ricky Anderson.

"I'm not going to do the j-turn," said Kim Blanchard, who lives in the Sugar Mill Plantation neighborhood. "I'll have to go all the way to the red light, I'm not going to take any chances."

Keith Washington Sr. is a school bus driver and former West Baton Rouge Parish Councilman. He expressed his concerns about the j-turn during December's rally, and supports a traffic light instead.

"Difficult for a 45-foot bus to make a j-turn, go down a mile and a half, turn at the red light, make a u turn and come back up," Washington Sr. said.

Everyone outside of DOTD is seemingly in favor of a traffic light. It has the support of not only residents and the chief of police, but also the parish president, the state senator and state representative for the district.

But DOTD remains steadfast with their plans. They said a j-turn won't slow down the flow of traffic on LA 1 and -- according to their studies -- it would be safer than a traffic light.

"If we put a light, we see a five percent reduction in crashes," said DOTD spokesman Rush. "A j-turn, because of the different movement, we see 20 percent reduction in crashes."

But residents pledge to fight on.

"I don't know how many people have to get killed before they start to pay attention," said Jim Benoit, who also lives in the neighborhood.

People who live in Addis plan on having another meeting this week to discuss what else can be done to possibly stop the j-turn construction and get a traffic signal installed. Plans could include a march at the state capital. Construction on the j-turn should begin in the spring and be completed by the fall.

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