(WBRZ News 2) Work was set to begin Tuesday on the Government Street Road Diet, according to city-parish officials. However, recent freezing weather pushed the start date back a few weeks, according to Fred Raiford, the director of transportation and drainage for East Baton Rouge Parish.
The diet would shrink most of Government Street from four lanes to two lanes with a turn lane in the middle and bike lanes on the outside. It's meant to slow down traffic, creating a pedestrian-friendly corridor for walk-in businesses.
"I think in the long term it's going to be great for Mid-City," said restaurant owner Ozzie Fernandez. His business, Rocca Pizzeria, is set to open Thursday on Government Street.
"I also own the Izzo's Illegal Burrito chain and I have one on Magazine Street in New Orleans," he said. "I'm looking for something more pedestrian friendly like that because our storefront [on Government] is out on the road and it's pretty dangerous, you really feel uncomfortable out there."
Government Street is a major corridor for drivers going to and from downtown. Officials hope drivers will start using parallel streets like North Boulevard which has an underused bridge across the downtown railroad tracks.
Some business owners have expressed concern in the past the diet will make traffic worse. There's also a concern that CATS buses will create a traffic barrier with just one lane on each side since most stops don't have places for the buses to pull off the street.
Raiford said construction was supposed to begin near Baton Rouge High School and work towards downtown, but added that is subject to change.