Hwy. 42 widening project slated for March 2021 completion

Michael Tortorich
An aerial photo shows Hwy. 42 in Prairieville during the widening project, which was anticipated for completion in spring this year.

After more than six years of frustration for motorists in the Prairieville area, March 2021 has been announced as the new expected time of completion for the Hwy. 42 construction project.

During the Ascension Parish Transportation Committee meeting Oct. 5, Transportation Director Joey Tureau made the announcement about the highway, which runs east-to-west through the bustling northern portion of the parish.

“March of 2021 is what they tell me,” Tureau told the committee during the meeting.

Ascension Parish Transportation Director Joey Tureau delivers the department report to the Transportation Committee meeting Oct. 5.

The state’s Department of Transportation and Development has been in charge of the widening project, originally holding a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 30, 2017, for the construction phase. The first phase, which included the initial clearing of the land, began in March 2014.

The $27.5 million expansion project, being done by Barber Brothers Contracting Company, widens 3.7 miles of Hwy. 42 from two to four lanes from U.S. 61 to Hwy. 44. Additionally, a six-foot sidewalk will be added on the north side of the highway with a 10-foot bicycle/pedestrian shared-use path on the south side of the roadway.

According to DOTD, Hwy. 42 serves more than 22,000 motorists daily. It is a key corridor for Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, and surrounding parishes.

The suburban sprawl of retail businesses and subdivisions have grown throughout the area in the past two decades, prompting necessary transportation infrastructure improvements.

Last week, Transportation Committee Chair Aaron Lawler provided an update on his Facebook page, seemingly anticipating frustration from constituents who have endured years of traffic jams.

“Hwy. 42 update. File under: Please don’t kill the messenger,” the perpetually jovial council member wrote.

“Are we taking bets?” one user jokingly replied.

DOTD has missed anticipated completion dates. The coronavirus pandemic has been key in the delay.

Safety had been a concern for years in regard to Hwy. 42, particularly due to a notoriously sharp curve in the Hobart area.

Loretta Templet, who lives near Ascension Parish in Belle Rose, has been following the progress of the highway through the years. She lost her only child, Mandy Acosta, and a nephew, Brett Leggette, and a friend, Brett Frederic, in a vehicle crash on Hwy. 42 in August 1994.

Templet, and her sister, Miriam Leggette LaCroix, were in attendance in 2014 when the project originally began, and in 2017 when construction started. Photos from the 2017 ceremony show the sisters talking with Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state and local officials. 

The sisters were included in the announcement and the ceremonial groundbreaking. At the time, Templet expressed how much it meant to her to see the roadway improved.

“My heart is full,” she said at the time.