POSTED: Monday, January 2, 2012 - 7:26pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 1:39pm
BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) — The Louisiana Department of Transportation is looking into new ways to free-up traffic congestion on a four-mile stretch of interstate through Baton Rouge. Local business owners, however, worry that construction in that area could impact them for the worst.
Almost ten years ago there was talk of widening Interstate 10 from the foot of the Mississippi Bridge to Essen Lane. That project would have cost about $200 million. Folks with restaurants and sotres near the Perkins Road overpass were so against the project that it never happened.
Now, they're worried that the topic could be on the table once again.
Zee Zee's Garden Inc. nearly right underneath the interstate. It shares that spot with dozens of other locally owned businesses.
"This is our livelihood," says owner Wilson Cox. "This is such a unique place. People love this place because it's been here for so long, and all of these things have too much history to them."
It's that history that Cox worries about losing.
"It would basically put this whole community out of business," he says of a widening project. "Not only that, but you would lose a lot of homes that have been around for years, and nobody wants to see that happen."
At Schlittz and Giggles across the street, employees say construction in the area would remove their parking, and slow business tremendously. The gravel area underneath I-10 is the only parking available for a number of restaurants right there.
"If we don't have anywhere for our customers to park or even our delivery drivers or even employees to park, how can we run a business?" manager Zachary Staples asks.
Even restaurant owners down the road from the overpass are worried.
"It would hurt our business because they're talking about taking out the on and off ramps a block from our business," says Neal Hendrick, owner of Zippy's.
He says his sales have dropped before because of a construction project.
"When the Perkins Road overpass was closed, our business decreased by 50% during the length of that project," he says.
That's why he, and other business owners, plan to fight to keep their community alive.
"The neighborhood is growing. People like coming to this area, so we're kind of opposed to anything that would stop growth in this area."
Public hearings on this issue could begin in March.