On Friday morning, a state panel approved three sites in Iberville Parish just south of Plaquemine in the west and St. Gabriel in the east as finalists for a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.
The trio of locations have been approved by the seven-member Capital Area Road and Bridge District, which has been considering the matter for months.
Iberville Parish Panel member Mitchell Ourso noted that his parish’s industries along the Mississippi River are major economic drivers.
“It’s time we got something back from the state,” Ourso said.
The previous list of 10 possible sites included seven in Iberville Parish, two that would connect East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge, and one in Ascension Parish.
They ranged from five miles south of the Mississippi River Bridge at Port Allen, often called the “new” bridge, to a location five miles north of the Sunshine Bridge.
A new bridge aims to ease the daily traffic jams on both sides of the river that have plagued motorists for years.
It is the only place on Interstate 10 between Santa Monica, California and Jacksonville, Florida that narrows to one lane just east of the bridge.
On Monday night, ratepayers got their first detailed look at 10 possible sites for a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, J…
The goal is to decide on a site by summer 2024, or possibly sooner.
The bridge and improvements to La.1 on the west side and La.30 on the east side could cost up to $3 billion.
Tolls and a partnership between the State and private industry are envisaged in the financing plan.
Although the panel approved all three locations, members expressed concerns that all three will require motorists to pass through Plaquemine.
“The town of Plaquemine is going to be a big deal going forward,” said West Baton Rouge Parish President and District Committee member Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot.
Jay Campbell, district chairman and Governor John Bel Edwards appointee, said the three finalists mean around 20,000 cars and trucks could pass through Plaquemine daily.
“What’s the plan now?” he asked state consultants and officials from the state’s Department of Transportation and Development, which nominated the three finalists.
Campbell also asked if the three bridge locations could be disqualified due to possible difficulty crossing Plaquemine.
DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said that won’t happen.
Wilson said the bridge project will require improvements on both sides of the river, including La. 30 on the east side and La. 1 on the west side.
Ourso noted that Plaquemine, Addis and other towns already face heavy traffic moving north in the morning and south in the late afternoon.
“Look, I’m satisfied,” he said.
The Legislature last week gave final approval to a $300 million allocation to build the new structure, which officials say could generate an additional $150 million in federal matching funds.
Addressing one of the key issues of the legislative session, state Senate leaders on Sunday approved spending $300 million on a new bridge over…
Another measure nearing final approval would generate $54 million a year in bridging assistance from Louisiana’s motor vehicle sales tax.
Campbell, as he often does, asked if work could be expedited to decide on the location of the bridge in less than two years, possibly 12 months.
Wilson said that now that three locations are in the mix, all three will receive detailed reviews.
“There could be the possibility of getting it in 18 months, 20 months, 22 months,” he said.
“The two-year window is an aggressive window. But there’s information we don’t have yet. It takes time.”
Trying to settle on a site in a year could jeopardize the entire project, Wilson said.
Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, who sponsored the legislation that created the seven-member district, attended the meeting and welcomed Friday’s developments.
“I’m just happy we’re in the bottom three,” Ward said. “My only goal is for us to get a new bridge.”
The seven-member panel, in addition to Wilson and Campbell, includes parish leaders from East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston and Iberville.
Ascension and Livingston officials missed the meeting.
Fred Raiford, director of transport and drainage for the parish of East Baton, said Mayor-President Sharon Broome had been kept informed of developments in detail and had repeatedly pressed Atlas Technical officials. Consultants LLC, which works with DOTD, and Wilson for more information.
Raiford said all three possible locations have pros and cons.
“We need another bridge,” he said. “That’s a fact.”
Officials started with 32 possible locations and steadily whittled down the list, in part because river pilots said some of the possibilities would be unfeasible from a navigational perspective.
Check back with The Advocate for more details.