BATON ROUGE – Faced with considerably heavier traffic on Baton Rouge interstates, the state Department of Transportation and Development is expanding its Motorist Assistance Patrol program, or MAP, in the area.
MAP, which offers assistance to disabled interstate motorists to improve traffic flow, this week doubled the number of vans in operation on Baton Rouge interstates and expanded its operating hours to 10 p.m. And effective Monday, a tow truck will remove disabled vehicles from a section of I-12 as necessary, according to Craig Melancon, MAP project manager.
Studies by the Federal Highway Administration estimate that an average of four minutes of traffic delay is created by every stalled vehicle blocking a lane. The MAP vans can provide a gallon of gas; change a flat tire; jump-start a car; fill a vehicle radiator with water; and provide the use of a cell phone to make a local call for additional assistance as needed.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, patrols operated in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Shreveport-Bossier City. Baton Rouge had three vans seven days a week patrolling I-12 and I-10 seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
This week MAP added another three vans in the Baton Rouge area, expanded its hours here to operate from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and expanded its coverage on I-10 to LaPlace. On Monday, MAP will add the tow truck that normally patrolled in the New Orleans area into the mix, Melancon said.
Melancon noted that pre-Katrina, MAP vans in Baton Rouge averaged 40 assists per day. Post-storm and before the additional vans were added, the number of assists had grown to an average of about 60 per day. Melancon said he expects average daily assists to double with the additional van use and the expanded hours and coverage area.
During morning hours, from 6-10 a.m., the MAP tow truck will be staged on the west side of I-12 at the Range Road on-ramp. It will be available for notification by police and MAP vans should an incident require removal of a stalled car, wreck, etc. The tow truck will take up to two vehicles at a time to O’Neal Lane and drop it off for pickup by a regular towing service.
During evening rush-hour, from 3-7 p.m., the same procedure will be implemented, with the tow truck staged on O’Neal Lane’s on-ramp and the drop-off point on Range Road.
Stephen Glascock, DOTD traffic engineer and services administrator, said, “The goal is to keep traffic moving during the 45 minutes it might normally take for a tow truck to arrive. This worked unbelievably well on the high-rise in New Orleans, and we think it’s definitely needed here now because of the heightened congestion in the area.”
Melancon said, “We’re not in competition with local towing services. We’re only removing the vehicles from the interstate, where regular towing companies can pick up the disabled vehicle and take it the rest of the way.”
MAP vans patrol to find stranded motorists on I-12 from Range Avenue to the I-10/I-12 split; on I-10 from Highland Road to LaPlace; and from I-110 to U.S. 61. Additionally, motorists can call their local law enforcement to request help; *LSP (for Louisiana State Police) on certain cellphones; or 911 in case of an emergency.