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Funding for possible new bridge across Mississippi River

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BATON ROUGE - Every day, thousands of people drive across the Mississippi River Bridge. Many know that at any given time, one incident can turn flowing traffic into a traffic jam.

The Capital Area Road and Bridge District looks to add another way across the river to ease that congestion. That group will meet for the first time Tuesday morning to discuss funding options. 

The group is made up of representatives from five parishes (East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, and Livingston), a member of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and a representative from Gov. John Bel Edwards' Office. The representatives were brought together with the passage of Senate Bill 496, sponsored by Sen. Rick Ward.

Ward says money for the bridge would be put up for a private donor, but that loan would be repaid with a toll. The senator thinks a tax is also needed. He also believes that money would pay for the bridge, roads leading up to the bridge, and additional expenses.

In December, Baton Rouge investor Jim Bernhard announced his company, Bernhard Capital Partners, is prepared to finance the entire $1.3 billion project.

Ward says it will be up to each parish to determine if they want to participate in the new bridge plan. It's possible a tax for the new bridge ends up on the fall ballot. 

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