Working from Home Hasn’t Helped Baton Rouge Traffic, Stats Show. Here’s Why.

The Advocate

After COVID-19 caused many in Baton Rouge to start working from home more frequently, some hoped for a silver lining: Maybe that would mean fewer cars on the road, and Baton Rouge’s infamous traffic could get better.

It turns out, that didn’t happen. 

In 2021, 8.3% of Baton Rouge employees worked from home, according to the Census Bureau — a number that has been steadily rising since 2010 but surged during COVID. About 30,000 fewer workers reported driving to work in 2021 compared to 2019. 

Yet some of the city’s busiest roads are busier than ever, state Department of Transportation and Development data show.

On Interstate 10 between College Drive and the I-10/I-12 split, traffic was up 4.5% in 2021, according to DOTD data. It was also up 4.5% between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Siegen Lane, and between Scotland Avenue and Harding Boulevard.

More people are working from home, but traffic isn’t improving and in some places is actually getting worse. What gives?

“The number of people working from home has increased quite a lot relative to 2019, but overall is still relatively small compared to other metros we often compare ourselves to like New Orleans and Birmingham,” said Jake Polansky, manager of economic and research policy at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “Because we have so few overall workers working from home, that’s why we think it hasn’t had a huge effect on traffic.”

Francesa Oatis, who commutes from Donaldsonville to the Department of Revenue in downtown Baton Rouge, said she savors Wednesdays, the one day she works from home and doesn’t have to sit in traffic.

“Before 6:30 in the morning, it’s not too bad,” she said. “After that, it’s bumper-to-bumper.”

Shae Goings commutes to her job in security downtown.

“Siegen is really bad,” she said. “When I leave at 3 p.m., it’s often already at a standstill.”

Pennie Landry, a frustrated commuter, said a drive that used to take her 15 minutes now takes an hour.

“Just by nature of growth, which is not happening in Baton Rouge but was at some point, traffic has definitely increased, particularly in the arteries off the interstate like Airline Highway, Siegen, Nicholson,” she said.

It’s not just Baton Rouge. Americans lost 51 hours to traffic in 2022, up from 36 hours in 2021, a sign of increasing post-pandemic congestion, according to INRIX’s Global Traffic Scorecard. Baton Rouge was the 34th most congested city in the U.S. in 2022 (New Orleans comes in at number 11), and drivers lost 28 hours in traffic.

Congestion cost the average American driver $869, or $466 per Baton Rouge driver, the scorecard found.

Rodney Mallet, communications director for DOTD, said telecommuting has changed traffic patterns, lessening rush hour traffic but causing issues at other times of the day.

In fact, a 2018 study on “metropolitan size and the impacts of telecommuting on personal travel” did find that” telecommuting may increase, rather than decrease people’s travel demand.” That’s because rather than driving to work downtown and running errands nearby, going to the gym nearby, or meeting friends for drinks nearby, telecommuters now make separate trips to the gym, grocery store, and social engagements, at varying times of the day.


Traffic safety goes along with congestion, and traffic fatality rates in the U.S. were up 19% in 2022 versus 2019, according to INRIX data. This is partly what prompted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Congress passed in November 2021, to dedicate $185 billion in funding to infrastructure and safety programs.

About $5.9 billion of that is slated for Louisiana for highways and bridges over five years, including the North Baton Rouge Mobility Project. That $59.6 million project covers the Airline Highway North Expansion, which will add a lane in each direction on a five-mile segment of U.S. Route 190, among other pedestrian and bike path improvements in the city.

In addition, the I-10 widening project and the Mississippi River South Bridge are meant to alleviate traffic. The $1.2 billion project plans to widen I-10 between La. 415 in West Baton Rouge Parish to the I-10/12 split.

Once completed, Polansky said the upgrades will improve congestion. To get it done, however, officials said they will have to close one lane of traffic in each direction for at least a year, causing worse traffic temporarily. In January, DOTD announced it would delay closing lanes to work on the widening project.

Some commuters aren’t so sure it will work.

“You can widen it, but then more people will travel on it,” said Oatis.

“It’s gonna take a really long time, and is gonna bottleneck traffic,” said Alex Lemoine, who lives downtown but spends a lot of time on the interstate visiting his dad in Denham Springs. “There are more people living here now than they were expecting when they built the city; there’s only so much you can widen or so much you can do.”

To alleviate more traffic during the I-10 construction, the state is considering four-day workweeks or more remote work days for employees. That could be valuable.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average remote worker in the U.S. saves about 55 minutes per day on commute times. What did they spend it on? More work and child care.

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