Bill to clear roads during rush hours advances in Louisiana

| Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Louisiana Senate panel has unanimously approved a bill that would prohibit highway work requiring the closure of at least one lane of traffic from happening during rush hours.

The Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted May 31 to send the bill – HB1173 – to the full Senate for consideration. If approved there, the bill would head to Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s desk for her signature. The House already approved it.

Sponsored by Rep. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, the bill would forbid highway construction and maintenance during the peak drive hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Existing Louisiana law specifies that major roadwork be done at night, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., or during other “non-peak” traffic hours, such as weekends.

Projects can be exempted from the rule if traffic studies determine that non-peak work hours cause “undo hardship or significant delay” to drivers.

But Crowe said the law isn’t being followed and numerous traffic delays are the result. He singled out work on the Interstate 10 twin spans linking eastern New Orleans and Slidell, The Times-Picayune reported. He also cited work on the U.S. 11 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain.

The bill would require the removal of all barricades, equipment and workers during the specified peak drive times. It also would require state contracts to contain language prohibiting contractors from working at those times.

A provision removed from the bill in the House called for violators to face a 5-percent loss of the contract amount for each day they are in violation. Instead, present law was reinstated to provide for the loss of incentives for performing peak-hour work.

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