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Talk of a new bridge is back, leaders to meet in February

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BATON ROUGE - Talk on how to fund a new bridge over the Mississippi River will begin in just a couple of weeks. State leaders in five parishes will meet in the first week of February. It could be the first step in creating a huge traffic relief.

“We're very behind,” said Sen. Rick Ward. “This is something that should have been taken care of 20 years ago.”

Traffic is constantly a nightmare in Baton Rouge and beyond. The question is: how to pay for a new bridge over the river?

“You have to figure out the cost and also what it's going to require to pay that cost back,” said Sen. Ward.

Sen. Ward spearheaded the creation of a group to make these decisions. It consists of five parish leaders, a DOTD leader and an official the Governor appointed. They've had a big break through. Prominent business man Jim Bernhard has stepped up saying he will pay the upfront cost.

“We're excited that there's now a lot of interest and we believe that we'll have the ability to get it done,” said Sen. Ward.

Getting it done is the next step. Ward said they waited to move forward until they found out how East Baton Rouge Parish’s road tax played out in December. Now that it has passed, they're ready to decide how they can pay back the cost of building a bridge.

“The top priority is to make that a toll road, and as toll heavy as much as possibly, but if there's a cost left over you have to figure out a funding mechanism for the rest of that,” said Sen. Ward.

In the end it will be up to voters. Ward says the earliest funding a new bridge could be on ballot is this fall.

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