Baton Rouge traffic is the fourth worst in the U.S. behind Los Angeles, New York and Miami only, according to a traffic index ranking by TomTom, an electronics company.
Congestion levels in Louisiana’s capital were 27% in 2021. That means drivers on average spend 27% more time in traffic during rush hours than they would in freeflow traffic. During the year’s 230 working days, about 62 hours were lost because of traffic.
The city’s issues are more surprising given Baton Rouge’s small population compared to the cities in front of it.
Time lost per year
New York City, New York
Los Angeles, California
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Jamie Setze, executive director of the Capital Region Planning Commission, said Baton Rouge’s traffic issues stem from decades of a lack of investment in infrastructure to support the city’s growth.
“Improvements are generally 20 years behind,” Setze said. “We’re trying to play catch up.”
Lydia Bearry, a graphic design senior, lives about 25 minutes from campus, and takes I-12 to and from campus.
“Some days I can go roughly 50 through the interstate and other days I’m at a dead stop for several exits,” Bearry said. “Some days it will take one hour and 30 minutes just to come home.”
Drivers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans waste more than $1,200 annually because of backups and squander 26 gallons of gasoline annually, according to TRIP, a nonprofit research group that focuses on transportation issues.
Meredith Giles, a nutrition and food sciences senior, takes I-10 to and from her home in Prairieville to LSU.
“I try to leave early because any time there is an accident the interstate basically shuts down and turns into a parking lot,” Giles said. “It’s definitely exhausting, especially after mentally long days. I liked when classes were online because it did give me the option to stay home or travel during off times to avoid traffic.”
Sections of Interstate 10 and 12 in Baton Rouge are chronically congested during rush hours in the morning and evening.
State officials will close one lane of traffic in each direction on a heavily traveled stretch of land on I-10 next year for a widening project meant to improve traffic flow. The three-mile section between Acadian Thruway and just east of the chronically backed up Mississippi River bridge sees over 150,000 cars and trucks daily, according to The Advocate.
To ease nightmarish traffic during the widening project, Gov. John Bel Edwards asked lawmakers to set aside money to upgrade a passenger rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, a temporary service for motorists traveling from Ascension Parish into Baton Rouge.
Edwards also proposed a $500 million plan for a new Mississippi River bridge as part of his budget plan that will be debated by lawmakers in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.
Around LSU, roads like Highland, Nicholson, Burbank and more see heavy congestion as students travel to and from campus in the mornings and afternoons.
“[LSU] is a school that’s jammed up against the river, so there’s only a couple of ways in and out,” Setze said. “You don’t have a normal grid or circle like other places.”
The lack of bicycle lanes and walking paths outside LSU’s campus means students in many off-campus apartments have to commute to campus. Baton Rouge officials proposed a TRAM line running from downtown Baton Rouge to LSU’s campus in 2016 under Mayor-President Kip Holden, but the plan fell apart two years later.
“There are roads on campus that are extremely hard to navigate and are a danger to pedestrians,” Bearry said. “Considering it’s a walking campus, I think more measures should be taken to protect them. Improvements for commuters like better parking would definitely be appreciated.”
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s MOVE BR project aims at improving the city’s traffic by upgrading road capacity traffic signals throughout the parish.
Setze said synchronizing traffic signals around Baton Rouge could result in major improvements to traffic flow.
East Baton Rouge Parish also has a bicycle-pedestrian master plan that would add several hundred miles of bike and walking paths around the parish to give commuters a non-commuting option to navigate the city.