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Location for new bridge narrowed down to three options, all in Iberville Parish

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BATON ROUGE - Deciding to build a bridge is easy. Deciding where to put it is taking a long time.

After much debate and public meetings, the ten possible locations for the new bridge have now been narrowed to three, and all of the possible locations are in Iberville Parish. 

One is near Plaquemine and the other two are near St. Gabriel.

The engineers used three factors to decide which locations would be considered: estimated traffic, environmental impacts, and public input.

Shawn Wilson with the DOTD says these are the best options. 

"We now have a more narrow description on what that will look like and it's those three alternatives that we have now vetted and determined these are the best three based on the environmental process," Wilson said shortly after the announcement. 

Based on the metrics that were shown, the location near Plaquemine scored the best with a 1.29 weighted average. The other two are tied at 1.71.

Much more work needs to be done before a final location is picked. Kara Moree with the Atlas Consultants says part of choosing the final location will see how each spot will impact the environment. 

The process to pick a final location could take about two years. In committee, some questioned if that process could be sped up, but Wilson says he does not want to rush the process. 

"The two years is an absolute latest window. It can go sooner, but to go any faster to try and get this done in a year, I think you put the project at more risk," Wilson said. 

The bridge is expected to cost roughly $1.5 billion.

Right now, there is $300 million set aside from state funding. Local leaders now have to convince the feds to help cover the cost. 

Even though progress is being made, Fred Raiford, the transportation and drainage director for East Baton Rouge, wants to remind drivers it is going to be a while before the bridge is built. 

"We're talking six to seven years before you see construction underway," Raiford said. 

Kevin Durbin, the public works director for West Baton Rouge Parish, wanted to know why a potential site in that parish had been dismissed as an option. 

The location in question also scored below two in the weighted average with a score of 1.86. 

"I would encourage the committee to think about carrying that fourth alternative forward. When you look at the scores, the 1.71s they are tied, from a scoring perspective you are really only carrying two options forward," Durbin said. 

Wilson disagreed, saying the three locations were "distinct" despite two having the same score. 

Tolls are expected to be collected to help cover the cost. 

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