Louisiana should not dodge bridge funding opportunity, Gov. John Bel Edwards says
Louisiana will pass up its best opportunity for a new Mississippi River Bridge if lawmakers dodge his funding recommendation for next year’ budget, Gov. John Bel Edwards said last week.
The traffic tie-ups along Interstate 10 that stretch for miles and last for hours will only worsen without a new bridge, he told members of the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.
“The traffic problems are the worst in the state, and the common denominator is Interstate 10,” he said.
Lawmakers bypassed the governor’s recommendation to allocate $500 million for preliminary work for a new Mississippi River Bridge between Addis and White Castle.
Committee members approved a Radial Fund that would revitalize infrastructure across Louisiana. It would immediately siphon $100 million from the $500 million for the bridge project.
The remaining $400 million is not earmarked for the bridge, although it still could go to that project.
“I can tell you that you can’t build a new bridge in Baton Rouge connected to the interstates on the west and east sides of the city for no less than $2 billion,” Edwards said.
None of the $400 million is earmarked for other projects, which still allows room for negotiation, said State Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who helped establish the Capital Bridges & Roads District.
The $500 million represents 20 percent of the estimated $2.5 billion price tag for the new bridge and the roadways leading to the artery.
Lawmakers should not pass on the opportunity when the state has more than enough funding to get the wheels turning on the project, Edwards said.
“There’s a lot of money for excess in the current year, excess from last year and there’s money from the American Rescue Plan,” he said. “I asked for $500 million, and they reduced it, putting it on a fund they can spend on anything. This is our opportunity to put it on track, keep it on track to meet milestones and construct that bridge.”
The footwork for the bridge began four years ago with the startup of a committee to work through the process of site selection, funding and other issues related to the project.
The state Department of Transportation and Development has scaled down the number of prospective sites from 20 to 10. The number is expected to be pared down to three by summer.
Environmental studies would begin on those three sites before the final site selection.
But the entire project could go into limbo if lawmakers hold back funding.
“There’s a lot of money for excess in the current year, excess from last year and there’s money from the American Rescue Plan,” Edwards said. “It’s the best opportunity we’ve ever had, and nobody can assure you we will have that same opportunity next year.”
Edwards urged residents to call their representatives and senators to voice their support for the project.
Here are the lawmakers to contact in the Iberville/West Baton Rouge area:
- Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine: (225) 687-2410 or brownc.legis.la.gov.
- Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Brusly, (225) 925-3700, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Fordoche, (225) 637-3803, or email@example.com.
- Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, (225) 644-6738, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- --Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, (225) 246-8838, or email@example.com.