Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso has had his eye on getting a bridge to connect the two halves of his parish for some time. Ourso met with and reassured the Parish Council recently that he will not give up the fight in bringing a bridge to Iberville Parish.
“The bridge is coming,” Ourso said in February. “When is it coming? I don’t know, but Iberville needs a bridge and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
“If you’re not at the table, then you must be on the menu,” Ourso said regarding Iberville’s presence in discussing the matter with state leaders. “I’m going to make sure that we are going to be at the table with this bridge.
“I’m not going to let this happen without Iberville getting its fair share.”
Ourso explained to the Council that the parish is spending approximately $2,500 a month in consulting fees with the TJC Group to help lobby leaders of the state on behalf of Iberville Parish.
Tim Johnson with TJC Group met with Council members and explained that the potential bridge decision will be a political choice based around who is “sitting at the table”.
“Iberville is really the only parish between New Roads and the Gulf of Mexico that doesn’t have a bridge,” Johnson said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure that when that decision is made that Iberville is at the table and part of the conversation.”
Johnson also explained that a lack of a bridge is causing local industries to suffer with having to get goods in an out of the area and bringing in qualified employees, specifically Dow Chemical.
There are five locations up for consideration as a new home for the bridge, according to Johnson, and two are in Iberville Parish. The first is near Dow and the West Baton Rouge Parish border while the other, called the “South of Plaquemine” bridge, will feed across and dump somewhere along Hwy. 30 in East Iberville near the University Club South/Bayou Paul area. Ourso has his sights set on the “South of Plaquemine” bridge project. “This site is more expensive, but it’s the most productive to take care of the traffic they’re dealing with in West Baton Rouge,” Ourso said.
State leaders have estimated the new bridge to have a $1 billion price tag. According to an Advocate report, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is currently brainstorming ways on how to pay for $13 billion backlog of traffic and bridge improvements and $16 billion in megaprojects, which includes the new bridge.
Johnson explained they are at least three years from breaking ground on a new bridge because the government requires a three-year NEPA environmental study to take place in all five locations and cannot be shortened by law.
“This project is funded, but hasn’t yet begun,” Johnson said. “We are going to continue to make the case to legislators, the Governor’s Office and to the DOTD. We are doing everything we can to keep the Iberville Parish location alive.”
Council Chairman Matthew Jewell and most of the council members are supporting Ourso’s fight for an Iberville location. “We want to work with you every bit of the way,” Jewell said.