Highway 415 bridge takes big step forward

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BATON ROUGE - A tense debate in the Louisiana House of Representatives Wednesday ended with overwhelming support to fund a long-awaited road project in the capital region. A bill to redirect some of the Deepwater Horizon settlement would allow for construction to begin next year on the Highway 415 connector bridge across the Intracoastal Canal in West Baton Rouge Parish.

Currently, there is only one bridge across the canal at LA 1 which causes major congestion through the parish and backs up I-10 traffic into Baton Rouge. If the bill becomes law, area lawmakers say the 415 connector could be complete in four years.

The bill would also pay to elevate a flood-prone stretch of LA 1 in Lafourche Parish that is critical to the oil industry. The remainder of the funds would go into Louisiana's Transportation Trust Fund for projects throughout the state.

State lawmakers from regions outside South Louisiana seemed leery of the bill early into the debate Wednesday. Many wanted another project in North Louisiana added to the proposal which might happen when it heads to the Senate.

"We have so many infrastructure needs in Louisiana that every [lawmaker] wants to try and use whatever money we have," said the bill's sponsor Tanner Magee (R-Houma). Louisiana has a backlog of road and infrastructure projects worth about $14 billion.

The bill redirects some of the Deepwater Horizon settlement away from three existing funds: the Budget Stabilization Fund, the Trust Fund for the Elderly, and the Health Trust Fund.

Like a new bridge across the Mississippi River, the Highway 415 connector across the Intracoastal Canal is considered a major part of easing congestion in the capital region.


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