17 Baton Rouge area sites considered for proposed Mississippi River bridge

Toll likely needed to fund bridge project, official says

By: - September 27, 2021 7:54 pm
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The Interstate 10 Horace Wilkinson Bridge is congested with traffic crossing the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge on Monday, Sept. 29, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

Officials and consultants with the Louisiana Department of Transportation have identified 17 potential sites for a new Mississippi River Bridge in the Greater Baton Rouge Area.

A new river crossing to alleviate traffic in Baton Rouge area has long been a wish of Baton Rouge politicians and residents alike. The most recently built bridge, which connects La. Highway 1 to La. Highway 30, carries more than 100,000 vehicles every day, many of which become snarled in congestion from West Baton Rouge Parish to the I-10/I-12 split. 

The Capital Area Road and Bridge District, which was formed two years ago as a regional board of leaders to spearhead transportation issues, received a status briefing from the team studying the bridge project. That team includes the state Department of Transportation and Development and Atlas Technical Consultants, which has a contract to do the preliminary engineering work.   

Kara Moree, a project manager with Atlas Technical Consultants, said the team initially identified 32 proposed sites along the river from Brusly to Donaldsonville and has since eliminated 15 through a round of screening that included navigational analysis, travel demand information and technical bridge parameters. They also eliminated sites that might contain protected wildlife, public recreational areas and other “sensitive resources,” she said.

One idea that was initially proposed was building a “twin span” of the Wilkinson Bridge, but when asked about it, Moree told district members the idea was nixed early on in the screening.  

“It was not identified as feasible in this round one — and mostly due to our navigational constraints,” Moree said. “We saw that pretty early on that the river is very wide (there).”

District member Eric Kalivoda said funding for the bridge, aside from state and federal funding, will likely come from a toll.

“There is going to be a toll on this bridge,” Kalivoda said. “There’s no getting around that.”

The consultants are now beginning work on a second, more rigorous round of screening that will include public meetings, further traffic analysis, toll and revenue estimation and other considerations. Toll modeling will be a “really big piece” of that round, Moree said.

Several proposed sites located just south of Addis showed strong marks under the criteria of the first screening round, but transportation department project manager Paul Vaught told district members to not read too much into that because strong ratings in the first round are not necessarily an indicator of how they will perform in the second round.

Through the second round of screening, Moree said, the team will further whittle the list down to three of four alternatives. The shorter list of sites should be complete by fall 2022.

 

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Wes Muller
Wes Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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