COVINGTON -- North Shore drivers have something to smile about after local leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday celebrating the completion of construction on Highway 21.
St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister helped cut the ceremonial ribbon on LA 21 and West 8th Avenue, near Saint Tammany Parish Hospital.
"This project has been needed for quite some time. It was two lanes to an emergency hospital that oftentimes got very congested, there are schools on either side of the highway. So this was so badly needed for so many years," Brister said.
The $16.8 million project actually finished up last month, widening LA 21 from Bootlegger Road to 11th Avenue. They also constructed a new two-lane bridge next to the existing bridge, made improvements to drainage, created better access to the highway from driveways, made it easier to make u-turns, and added sidewalks.
"There's a hospital on this corridor an you want to make access in and out of this facility as easy and efficient and trouble free as possible. Secondly this is a main corridor to get in and out of Covington," said Dr. Shawn Wilson, Secretary of Louisiana DOTD.
Planning on the project started more than eight years ago, but hit some design roadblocks and negotiation issues with local businesses and residences along the highway.
Dr. Wilson said that this is common with these projects, since they have to make sure property owners are being fairly compensated and that there are no errors made in the planning process.
Construction took a couple years after it started up in 2014.
About 30,000 drivers use Highway 21 daily.