The move would affect tens of thousands of drivers, including a large number of motorists from Pointe Coupee Parish who use the thoroughfare on commutes to Baton Rouge, Plaquemine, and other areas to the east.

It’s official. The swirl of a pen by Gov. John Bel Edwards put the wheels in motion for a road project designed to alleviate miles of traffic congestion along Interstate 10 and La. 1.

Gov. Edwards signed House Bill 578, the legislation sponsored by Houma Republican Rep. Tanner Magee and pushed by members of the Westbank delegation.

The project will be part of a $600 million road package, which marks the first major highway improvement plan the state has funded since the late 1980s.

The plan calls for a connector route from I-10 to La. 1 on the south end of La. 415.

The move would affect tens of thousands of drivers, including a large number of motorists from Pointe Coupee Parish who use the thoroughfare on commutes to Baton Rouge, Plaquemine, and other areas to the east.

The revenue, coupled with matching federal funds and money from the private sector, would pave the way for construction of a three-mile artery would extend from the south end of La. 415 to La. 1, south of the Intracoastal Waterway.

The $145 million project could become a reality as early as 2026. The time frame may seem ambitious, but the combination of environmental studies and dedicated funding could put the project on the fast track.

The arteries of La. 1 and the I-10 corridor leading to the Mississippi River Bridge have accounted for some of the worst congestion in the South, and both routes play a huge role in commerce and trade, Magee said.

The plan will use funds from a near-$10 billion settlement from British Petroleum for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The tie-ups along Interstate 10 between Port Allen and Baton Rouge often delay traffic for miles – often in all four directions.

More than 50,000 vehicles cross the Intracoastal Waterway bridges daily and upwards of 200,000 motorists pass along the I-10.

A rebuild of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge is already on the work list after it received an "F" grade for structural deficiency. The dump truck collision that closed the artery last March – and created traffic jams from the 10-12 split to four miles west of the Mississippi River Bridge – heightened the urgency for quick action.

The connector route is not a new proposal. It first came to light on the parish's master plan in 1972, only four years after the completion of the Mississippi River Bridge and a year before the opening of I-10 between Grosse Tete and Lafayette.