BATON ROUGE - Johnny B. Bradberry, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), announced today that DOTD will let $800,000 of improvements to U.S. 61 (Airline Highway) in early 2005, based on recommendations made by the U.S. 61 Task Force Committee.
At the request of State Senator Joel Chaisson and Rep. Gary Smith, the U.S. 61 Task Force Committee was formed to investigate two fatal crashes resulting in six fatalities that occurred on U.S. 61 between I-310 and LA 48 in the spring of 2003. The Committee is composed of representatives from DOTD, the Louisiana State Police, the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office, the St. Charles Parish President’s Office, and the Federal Highway Administration.
A public meeting was conducted on April 28, 2004, at Destrehan High School to solicit comments from the community and interested parties. The crash history and identified possible countermeasures were presented at that time to the attendees. Below is a brief synopsis of the Committee’s final recommendations:
Public Education – Many Louisiana drivers lack education regarding how to escape a vehicle submerging in water and the corresponding importance of seatbelt usage. Seatbelt usage is the best protection method to ensure that drivers and passengers remain in their seating position and are not thrown out of or about the vehicle, which can result in unconsciousness or severe injury. The Committee recommended that a public information / education campaign be developed for southern Louisiana stressing the importance of properly using occupant restraint systems, and methods for escaping a submerging or submerged vehicle. The Committee also recommended that steps be taken to incorporate this information into the driver’s education program statewide.
Median Crossovers – LA DOTD conducted a review of all crossovers along the study section. As a result of this review, five crossovers were identified for closure. Construction of two new crossovers will be required to provide driveway access when the five crossovers are closed. Three existing crossovers were recommended for upgrading by widening. Additionally, a previous review identified five crossovers that could be closed. These crossovers were closed in February of 2004.
Left Turn Lane Improvements – Left turn lane improvements have been identified at three locations where the existing median widths allow. Exclusive left turn lanes and U-turn lanes will remove turning traffic from the through traffic lanes.
Traffic Control Improvements – The following traffic control improvements have been identified and recommended: painting and paving of raised medians at all crossover locations for a distance of 50 feet from the median’s raised edge (formally referred to as a “nose”), installing reflectorized markers on the median “noses”, installing crossover and advance crossover signs to give advance notice of each crossover, installing reflectorized pavement markers on the shoulder between the edge line stripe and rumble strips in both directions and replacing existing outside edge line striping with enhanced pavement striping in both directions. These traffic control improvements will provide enhanced identification and improved advance notification of crossovers as well as increase visibility during inclement weather conditions.
All improvements are scheduled to be let to contract by May 2005.
For additional information contact Dan Magri at (225) 379-1871.