Concensus disintegrating on proposed BR Loop

Deidre Cruse

Support among parish presidents for the proposed Baton Rouge Loop project dwindled last week to two of the five whose parishes would be included in the route.

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden led the effort for the project, an 85-mile; $4.5 billion route intended to relieve traffic congestion on the Baton Rouge interstate system

Holden chairs the Capital Area Expressway Authority, and the parish presidents of the Iberville, Livingston, Ascension and West Baton Rouge serve on its executive committee.

“It looks like the only supporters are West Baton Rouge Parish President PeeWee Berthelot and Kip Holden,” Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said Monday.

Ourso announced in October he would pull out of the loop project if it did not include a new Mississippi River Bridge in Iberville Parish.

Citing strong objections from his parish's residents, Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer announced last week he would vote against building the northern portion of the loop.

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said the southern part of the route didn't appear to be economically feasible.

The issue is getting some attention now that the “two big boys got out,” Ourso said.

“It doesn't come to me as no surprise [sic],” he said. To be honest with you, I don't believe we was a big player in this. When I first said, if we don't get a bridge, I'm out, they didn't put too much weight on this.”

“I don't think we were ever meant to be included with a bridge,” Ourso said. “So let Mr. Berthelot and Kip Holden see what they are going to do.”

East Baton Rouge Parish put up $2 million to begin planning the project, and the Legislature appropriated nearly $4.5 million more, Ourso said.

“That certainly could have been spent to repair La. 1 from Plaquemine to White Castle,” he said, noting the highway's poor state or repair.

According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Holden and Berthelot intend to continue a push for at least the northern portion of the Loop. Loop officials have requested $2 million in state funds to continue studying that portion of the project, but the capital region's legislative delegation failed to support it, the newspaper said.