The wave of the future for Louisiana highways could be here this spring. It's a project that has the engineers at DOTD very excited and optimistic about what could happen in the years to come.
What if we could change the face of our interstates in the state of Louisiana overnight? What if we could finally make the drive on I-20 through Bossier less like a roller coaster ride and more like driving I-20 in Texas? The answers to those questions may be in the form of an experiment DOTD is doing this Spring with the hope of drastically improving Louisiana highways in the future.
So what we're doing is a somewhat experimental process to do that. This process is called the Precast Reinforced Concrete Pavement. So, the pavement is being cast in another location, it's being cast in Dallas. The pros to that is that we are assured of the quality of the concrete before it ever gets here," said Erin Buchanan/DOTD.
The roadway that will get the ready-made pavement is the on-ramp to Interstate 20 west of Shreveport going eastbound. It's in pretty rough shape.
So why exactly did DOTD pick this specific on-ramp at exit 3 to try this experimental project? The truckstops tell the story. A Love's Truckstop on one side of the road. And, then on the other side you have a Flying J Truckstop. So you've got trucks everywhere, a lot of them coming up from Houston. This on-ramp gets a lot of heavy traffic coming up from Houston getting onto Interstate 20 east and westbound.
This is the first time the process has been tried in the State of Louisiana, but the Federal Highway Administration has had success with the process in other parts of the country.
The speed of construction reflects into faster opening of the travel lanes. It also poses less danger to the construction crews and one of the biggest benefits is the minimization of user delay costs," said Suneel Vanikar P.E./Federal Highway Administration.
DOTD says it can be completely done with this on-ramp over the course of a weekend. That means taking out everything, laying down 2 feet of rock as a base then putting the precast reinforced concrete pieces in place. That kind of speed has many thinking about another project that may now be possible if this one is successful....
"When you look at a project like I-20 through Bossier City, which is one that we get a lot of questions about ... when are we going to see an improved Interstate 20 through Bossier? If this is something that the department deems workable for us for future projects it really could transform how we're able to get a project like that off the ground and truly get that ball rolling in terms of a traffic management standpoint. Because that's a huge hurdle to cross when you're talking about rebuilding that part of Interstate 20 through Bossier," said Buchanan.
This experiment which has been done in many other states will cost about $2.8 million dollars. Most of that coming from the federal government, in other words, your federal tax dollars. They call it demonstration money so that states can see how it works for them and consider using the process in the future. To repair the on-ramp with hot mix, which is how it's been done previously, would cost about a million dollars. So it's definitely more expensive. And, that's what they have to weigh. Speed, endurance, cost ... there's a lot to consider.
"The great thing about it, is how fast it will happen. So when those panels are shipped in from Grand Prarie, Texas ... you'll see a new on-ramp overnight."
After the project is done DOTD says they will monitor how the on-ramp does for about a year to determine if it's something that we want to invest our state tax dollars in for future projects.