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10 sites remain for new Mississippi River bridge; top 3 options to be decided in May

1 month 3 weeks 4 days ago Monday, March 28 2022 Mar 28, 2022 March 28, 2022 10:38 PM March 28, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The list of potential locations for a new bridge over the Mississippi River was cut in half Monday, with the expectation that three final options would be chosen by the end of May.

"One thing [is] for sure, what we got out there's not working," Fred Raiford, transportation and drainage director for East Baton Rouge Parish, said Monday. "It doesn't work, and it hasn't for a long time."

Public hearings for the 10 options, all of which run from LA 1 to LA 30, will begin April 25.

Of the remaining potential sites, one runs through Ascension Parish, from Donaldsonville on the west side of the Mississippi River to Geismar on the east side.

Two locations remain in East Baton Rouge. Both would span from Addis in West Baton Rouge to LA 30, one near Innovation Park Drive, the other near Bluebonnet Boulevard.

Raiford, who represents East Baton Rouge on the Capital Area Road and Bridge District, expressed some reservations about the two bridge possibilities in his parish.

"I certainly have concerns about using our roadways as a corridor to get it to the interstate," Raiford said during Monday's bridge meeting. "Both of these roadways that we have made reference to are EBR parish roads. I don't want to be having people drop off the bridge, come on to LA 30, and be using Bluebonnet [Boulevard] as an exit to go to I-10. I already have enough traffic problems in my parish."

The other seven possibilities are in Iberville Parish.

"I like waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning and Channel 2 is telling me the [Plaquemine] Ferry is closed down for fog, the ferry broke down," Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso joked after Monday's meeting. "You think we don't need a new bridge? I think that answers the question."

Price tags for the 10 bridge proposals, revealed Monday, range by hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The lowest [price] being $1.2 billion, which is the southernmost alternative, and the highest ranging at $1.9 billion," Kara Moree of Atlas Technical Consulting explained to capital area parish leaders.

Last month, DOTD estimated connectors to a new bridge would cost roughly $800 million, pushing the entire project north of $2 billion.

During Monday's meeting, some parish leaders expressed interest in moving up the public input portion of the project, citing concerns that some lawmakers could doom the $500 million being proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards for the bridge project.

"I know that the legislature's got to do what they need to do, but we need the funding to be able to move this project forward," Raiford lamented. "I think we're closer than we've ever been in regards to looking at a site and trying to make this thing happen as quickly as possible."

Some lawmakers expressing concern about setting aside that chunk of money before a final location is chosen, said they need to see more about the potential sites first.

"When in truth and fact, we do have that information readily available now," Jay Campbell, who was appointed to the district by Edwards, said. "We're following a process."

Moree expects to whittle the list of 10 down to three by the end of May, shortly after public info sessions wrap up.

Capital area leaders are calling for a united front once a final location is selected.

"It might not be the place I'm most happy with, might not be the place that somebody else is the most happy with," Sen. Rick Ward, a Port Allen Republican who authored legislation to create the Capital Area Road and Bridge District, said. "For our region as a whole, I think it is very important that as things are narrowed down, we come to an agreement on that and all get behind it."

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