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Location for new Mississippi River bridge could be four years away

4 weeks 23 hours 10 minutes ago Monday, January 27 2020 Jan 27, 2020 January 27, 2020 8:53 PM January 27, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – It could be years until a final location is designated for a new bridge over the Mississippi River.

The group tasked with helping make that a reality met at the state capitol on Monday.

The Capital Area Road and Bridge District learned that it could be four years until a specific spot for a new bridge is picked.

Part of the timeline now depends on an appeal of DOTD's selection of a consulting firm.

Once a decision is finalized, the selected firm will be in charge of pinning down a location for the new bridge.

“The idea with this portion is to consider all plausible alternatives and narrow them down to approximately three. The expected time frame for part one of the contract is 24 months. But, again, the actual schedule will be as negotiated with the consultant,” Vaught said.

The three locations will be put through an environmental evaluation, among other assessments.

“Part two will narrow the alternatives further down to the one preferred alternative. And that process is expected to take approximately 24 months,” Vaught said.

That timeline is on hold because a consulting firm that wasn't chosen has appealed DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson's choice of a different firm.

"I've outlined all of my decisions in terms of the selection. And in fairness to the process, because it is an appeal, I'd rather not reiterate things that might come back out as a supporting factor or a reason that I might change the decision,” Wilson said.

The $5 million consulting contract, $2.5 million for part one and $2.5 million for part two, was awarded to Atlas Technical Consultants. It placed third overall in the final round of the selection process.

The Texas-based firm is owned by Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard, who's been vocal in his support for a new bridge, and previously said he would back a loan to build it.

“But I will tell you it was all within the confines of the law. It was all designed to specifically deliver this project as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that even if all the funds needed to build the new bridge were available today, it couldn't happen before this preliminary process is completed.

“I stand here today and can't tell you exactly where the bridge will be. I can't give you the specifics of what that bridge is going to look like. And so I can't tell you what that bridge is going to cost for you to give me the money to do that. So going through this process is the best practice. It's the way that it's been done all over the country,” Wilson said.

Five locations have been identified as potential spots for a new bridge in a previous study. All those locations connect to LA 1 and LA 30 on either side of the river. The cost estimates ranged anywhere from $800 million to over $1 billion for the bridge alone.

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