$9.2B project prompts change in La. 1/415 connector route

Staff Report

Work on the nation’s second largest economic development project has some alterations in the planning for the long-awaited connector route to alleviate Interstate 10 traffic jams.

State Sen. Rick Ward

At the same time, talks continue on the long-discussed plans for a new Mississippi River Bridge.

The plans for the connector route took a detour after the announcement in November of a renewable fuel complex on the west bank of the Mississippi River near Port Allen.

It will use a portion of land near Intracoastal Waterway that was originally pegged for the connector route from La. 415 to La. 1.

“It’s where the original path was supposed to go, but that’s where the facility is going to go, so the state is going to have to redesign that piece of the puzzle,” said state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who serves as head of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The redesign should be complete by summer, he said.

Ward said he does not expect further delays.

“It’s moving right along, and the money is secured, so it’s not going anywhere,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll start work soon.”

The current fiscal year marks the first payment the state Department of Transportation and Development has received for the project, Ward said.

On the Mississippi River Bridge project, a long road looms before it gains funding. But Ward remains optimistic that the plans will eventually fall into place.

The funding is only part of the issue.

Environmental studies and other preliminary work must be completed before the project gets the green light, Ward said.

“What they’re doing right now is extremely important,” he said. “If Warren Buffett came down here and wrote us a $1 billion check until engineering work is done, we still wouldn’t be able to start.

“There’s work being done, and in the meantime, we will figure how to fund the construction,” Ward said.