a road to nowhere

Four BILLION dollars to build a loop around Baton Rouge? I can’t wrap my mind around this massive project. If in 100 years, the inevitable happens, what purpose would this loop serve? Not to mention the impact on one of the few viable ecosystems in the state, the Atchafalaya Basin. The ultimate insult is this will be a toll road.

Northern BR loop to pass south of U.S. 190
* Advocate staff writer

The group developing plans for a proposed traffic loop around Baton Rouge has decided where it wants to build a bridge across the Mississippi River for the northern portion of the loop.

Mike Bruce, of ABMB Engineers, told area public officials and an advisory committee Thursday that a possible bridge crossing a few miles to the north of the U.S. 190 bridge has been eliminated. He said environmental and maritime concerns made a river crossing there impractical. “Our plan is for the bridge to be adjacent to the existing bridge,” Bruce said. He said the new bridge would be built on the south side of the U.S. 190 bridge and link to Interstate 110 in East Baton Rouge Parish. The U.S. 190 bridge would remain for local traffic, officials said.

The thornier political question of where to build a bridge for the southern portion of the proposed 85-mile loop — at Addis in West Baton Rouge Parish or between Plaquemine and White Castle in Iberville Parish — remains unresolved. Larry Johnson, a representative from West Baton Rouge Parish serving on the loop advisory committee, said a bridge in Iberville Parish likely would be impractical for financial reasons.

The plan is for the proposed $4 billion traffic loop to be built as a toll road in a partnership with private-sector investors. Johnson suggested private investors would be less interested in a loop that swung further south, diverting fewer motorists from Interstate 10 onto the toll road.

“It seems to me if the numbers don’t fit, we should eliminate it,” Johnson said. “Why spend a lot of time on it?” Political leaders ultimately would have to make a number of key decisions, said Walter Monsour, special adviser to Mayor-President Kip Holden. “Our job as the project team is (to) put these options to the appropriate decisionmakers,” he said.

No representatives from Iberville Parish attended Thursday’s briefing on loop plans. Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. has insisted in the past the new bridge needs to be built in his parish. At Thursday’s briefing, results of a recent poll commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber were released. The survey showed 83 percent of the people polled in the five affected parishes believe Baton Rouge needs a loop.

Holden said companies from Australia, Spain and other countries, as well as in the U.S., have expressed interest in entering into a public-private partnership to help fund the massive project. He acknowledged some people would be unhappy with the routes chosen for the loop, but he said the project is vital for the growing capital region. “We’re not out here to destroy communities; we’re out to build communities,” Holden said. “We’re doing things that should have been done long ago.”

Monsour said the capital area region is continuing to grow as the New Orleans metro area has struggled to recover economically from Hurricane Katrina. “South Louisiana is continuing to move north,” Monsour said. “That’s a fact.”

Robert Schmidt, of the HNTB Corp., said plans call for construction on the loop to begin in 2012. A second round of public hearings to give residents a chance to weigh in on possible routes for the loop is scheduled for September.

~ by maringouin on Friday, July 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “a road to nowhere”

  1. Hey Mosquito Coasters,
    this one piqued a flea for Editilla, since I have lived in BR and come to believe that city’s traffic to be unbelievably heinously congested… indeed the mirror of what it must be like waiting to get into Hell. This was before Katrina bumped the population.
    Now, they want a bridge just for North Baton Rouge? Oh yeah, Baker will become the newest Tourist Destination. Come See The Exxon Refinery!
    Geez Louie! I mean, what do you say?

  2. So do you support this project, in its current form, or perhaps in another configuration?

    I can definitely commiserate with you on the gnarly traffic issue and desire to alleviate the mess…

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