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New tax plan for bridge across Mississippi

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BATON ROUGE- Would you vote for higher taxes if it paid for a new bridge across the Mississippi River? Voters in five parishes may soon get the chance.

State Senator Rick Ward (R-Port Allen) has proposed creating a special taxing district encompassing East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, and Iberville Parishes. If passed by the legislature this year, residents in the district would eventually vote on a sales or property tax that would pay for some or all of the bridge.

"I just thought it would be a good opportunity for the people of this region to try and fix our own problem," said Ward.

Private investors might also contribute, but that would likely result in some sort of toll on the bridge.

The failure of a statewide gas tax in the state legislature last year dimmed hopes for funding major projects like this.  In East Baton Rouge Parish, two different transportation tax initiatives also failed in the last two years.

According to a state-funded Interstate 10 corridor study, a new bridge across the Mississippi River is one of three mega projects needed to ease congestion in the capital region. The other two are a widened interstate through Baton Rouge and a loop around the city.

Officials with DOTD have said the environmental study currently being conducted on the interstate widening project will help determine the location of a new bridge.

Ward's bill would create a commission to determine the amount of tax needed for the project. Each parish would have a representative on the board who would work closely with DOTD.

It's unclear when a tax vote would be held. The bill has passed the Senate and is now on to the State House of Representatives.

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