This map shows the three final options for a new bridge that crosses the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge. (Map courtesy DOTD/Atlas Technical Consultants)
Using a fast-tracked public feedback process, Louisiana transportation officials have narrowed down the options for a new Mississippi River bridge near Baton Rouge to three locations, all connecting the east and west banks of Iberville Parish.
Commissioners for the Capital Area Road and Bridge District got their first look at the remaining options Friday morning at the State Capitol. The commissioners represent the five parishes in the Baton Rouge region. The three final proposed locations are all south of Baton Rouge and connect Louisiana Highway 1 on the west side of the river to Highway 30 in east Iberville.
The most popular option, based on public comment, leaves Highway 1 just south of Plaquemine and connects to LA 30 just south of the Iberville-East Baton Rouge parish line. The other two choices are less than 3 miles south on Highway 1, connecting on the downriver side of the Shintech plant. One crosses the river and runs to the same spot on the east bank as the highest-rated version, close to the LA 30-Bluebonnet Road intersection. The other ends on the east bank close to the St. Gabriel Community Center.
The next step is an environmental evaluation that Moree said will take approximately two years and end with a final location being chosen.
Commuters driving through the capital city on Interstate 10 have dealt with traffic tie-ups for decades despite multiple widening projects along I-10 and I-12. Growth of suburban parishes has exacerbated the problem.
Planners started with 32 preliminary bridge locations last fall and trimmed the list down to 20 by the end of 2021. Gov. John Bel Edwards called on the Legislature to provide $500 million for the bridge project with hopes of attracting federal matching dollars. The new bridge is expected to cost at least $1 billion to build.
The vetting process went into high gear once Republican legislative leaders said they were reluctant to provide the money Edwards sought because the location of the bridge was still so uncertain. The public review process had only narrowed the sites down to 20 by early spring, and that list was cut in half by late March.
The Legislature eventually put $300 million toward the bridge project in next year’s budget, which awaits the governor’s approval.
The screening process that produced the three locations involved series of public hearings from April 25 to May 3. Comments were also accepted online and by phone through May 14. Feedback came from residents, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and stakeholders such as river pilots and industrial interests, said Kara Moree, project manager with the engineering firm that’s consulting state transportation officials.
Moree told commissioners Friday nearly 1,200 people attended the public hearings and more than 2,200 comments were submitted on the bridge locations. The process provided local insight, such as the location of family cemeteries, that would be taken into account for the final path for the bridge is selected, she said.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.