Iberville Parish has launched an interactive website leaders hope will strengthen their efforts to convince federal and state officials that any new Mississippi River bridge to address the region’s growing traffic needs happens in their parish.
And, as a bonus, the site gives real-time traffic information to online visitors.
Members of the Iberville Parish Council on Tuesday night were given their first glimpse at the new website from Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso’s administration.
“The site is about getting information out and how to get the public involved so we can stay in the eye of the ‘powers that be’ so Iberville stays in play for a bridge,” the parish’s finance director, Randall Dunn, told council members at the meeting. “Unless someone makes it a priority on the federal level, it’s never going to happen.”
Dunn said the idea for the website was pitched by Ourso, who believes it’s the best way to give the public a visual snapshot of the issue.
“I just had a dream that we need to get our name out here for this bridge,” Ourso said later in the meeting. “We want to be able to control our own destiny.”
A few months ago, Ourso revealed he hired consultants with the TJC Group to lobby state leaders on Iberville’s behalf regarding the proposed bridge. It was a move that received sharp criticism from elected officials in neighboring West Baton Rouge Parish who are convinced their parish is a more logical choice for any new bridge.
West Baton Rouge Parish officials want the decision over where to build a new bridge to be guided by data proving it would ease the growing traffic congestion along La. 1 on the west side of the Mississippi River and not because Ourso may have the political advantage.
But in March, an engineering firm hired by Ourso presented data to parish leaders claiming that two proposed bridge locations in Iberville would decrease traffic by more than 30 percent along the La. 1 corridor between Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes and divert nearly 10 percent of the vehicles using the Interstate 10 bridge every day.
PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish leaders have said building a new Mississippi River bridge in their parish is the most logical solution to addressing some of the region’s traffic issues. And Tuesday night they had their theory confirmed by a new traffic study paid for by the parish.
The study, conducted by Baton Rouge engineering firm Neel-Schaffer, asserts a new bridge located in Iberville would have the greatest impact on reducing traffic along La. 1 and the Interstate 10 Mississippi River bridge — two pressure points for daily traffic snarls in West Baton Rouge Parish.
The Neel-Schaffer report, which was presented Tuesday to the Iberville Parish Council, claims two proposed locations in Iberville would decrease traffic by more than 30 percent along the La. 1 corridor between the Iberville and West Baton Rouge parish line and divert nearly 10 percent of the vehicles using the I-10 bridge every day…
A business and industry group lobbying for major upgrades to the Baton Rouge region’s transportation grid on Tuesday identified $3 billion in key highway improvements it says would unclog the capital city’s perennially stalled roads.
The cost-benefit analysis from CRISIS says multiple projects are needed, but the highest benefit would come from boosting highway capacity over the Mississippi River by building a new bridge costing up to $1.6 billion and increasing use of the U.S. 190 bridge.
While Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions officials suggested tolls could contribute to funding for the bridge and some other projects, the group’s executive director said new revenue sources — likely a higher gasoline tax — still would be necessary to provide the hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to pay for the projects.
“These are not cheap projects, but what we found out from the analysis is they provide a tremendous bang for the buck, and if we’re smart about it, we can really transform how the region really moves,” said K. Scott Kirkpatrick, executive director of CRISIS…
As the state and business groups mull the best location for a new Mississippi River bridge location south of Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish officials continued to press for a crossing south of Plaquemine that officials in neighboring Iberville also want.
Just days before another public comment period ends Monday on the long-churning Baton Rouge Loop environmental review process, the Ascension Parish Council petitioned federal highway officials for the Plaquemine crossing to remain in the highway’s final proposed corridor.
The 90- to 105-mile, toll-funded beltway would encircle the Baton Rouge area with interstate-style highways and two river crossings.
The Ascension Parish Council has once before stated its preference for the Plaquemine crossing, but the final proposed Loop corridor now up for comment eliminates that crossing in favor of two spots upriver in West Baton Rouge Parish.
In a resolution the council approved unanimously Thursday, Ascension Parish officials cited a future Plaquemine bridge’s proximity to riverside industrial facilities compared with preferred crossings upriver near Brusly and Addis.
Two parishes have now signed a cooperative endeavor agreement to perform a study for a new Mississippi River bridge.
Iberville and Ascension Parishes have set aside a combined $300,000 for a study to assist the Department of Transportation and Development with investigating the feasibility of constructing an additional bridge over the river.
“Ascension has partnered with Iberville of knowing the necessity of another bridge,” said Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso. “If a bridge is going to be thought about, we just want some consideration.”
During the 2014 Legislative Session, House Resolution 192 requested the DOTD to consult with local governing authorities to begin a study of the feasibility of a new bridge.
DOTD is pursuing the study of three potential crossings between the I-10 bridge and the Sunshine bridge. A study would not be completed until the first quarter of 2015.
Ourso says there’s no telling where this new bridge will go if one is built, but when a loop was studied in Iberville, it went south of Plaquemine, near Bayou Goula.
“We still have a ferry,” he said. “I just want to be looked at, just a little consideration.”
Traction is starting to build for a proposed new four-lane highway on the west side of the Mississippi and a new bridge across the river, but the speed bump on the plans may be the estimated price tag: $1.65 billion.
Talk of the new West Side Expressway and bridge began in earnest about five years ago, but the state Legislature only this year approved $1.65 million for a feasibility study of the proposed expressway, which would begin at Interstate 10 west of Port Allen and run to La. 1 south of Plaquemine.
A new Mississippi River bridge that’s part of the project would go from the west bank, between Plaquemine and White Castle, to the east bank, south of Baton Rouge.
The multibillion-dollar Baton Rouge Loop project is on track and moving forward, Mayor-President Kip Holden said Monday after a meeting of the Capital Area Expressway Authority.
“This project is not dead by any stretch of the imagination,” Holden said. “We’re still on track for what we had originally proposed.”
The loop is a proposed 85-mile toll road surrounding Baton Rouge that supporters say will alleviate traffic problems.
Last year, the loop project took multiple blows when three of the five parish presidents serving on the authority’s board of directors — Ascension’s Tommy Martinez, Livingston’s Mike Grimmer and Iberville’s J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. — resigned.
A few months later, Gov. Bobby Jindal used his line-item veto to delete $5 million of state spending.
Mike Bruce, managing principal of ABMB Engineers which is one of the lead firms on the loop project, said it’s unclear if the loss of state money affected the timeline.
Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said he would abandon the Baton Rouge Loop project unless it includes a Mississippi River bridge in Iberville Parish.
He told the Parish Council he was discouraged about the parish’s chances for a bridge after a recent meeting with a design engineer for the loop.
“We deserve better than that,” said Ourso, who serves on the Capital Area Expressway Authority’s Executive Committee with other area parish presidents. “I expect some answers by January…If he doesn’t tell me what I need to hear, then I will pull out of the loop.”
A new bridge between Plaquemine and White Castle has been under consideration. Currently, the authority is siding with representatives of the marine industry and the U. S. Coast Guard who favor a new crossing near Addis. That would give West Baton Rouge Parish three crossings within a 10-mile stretch.
Read Full Story By Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter
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