The Capital Area Road and Bridge District, tasked with finding a new way to fund a third Mississippi River bridge, needs an initial injection of money to pay for studies the federal government will require before it approves a final plan.
Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, created the task force and says he hopes the legislature will use some surplus money to pay for the studies. The more money dedicated for the studies, the faster they can be done, although it’s unclear how much a bare minimum study would cost.
If state lawmakers do not agree to that plan, the five parishes involved in the negotiations would have to fork over the cash themselves, or “go back to the drawing board,” Ward said.
“To really start the work that needs to be done, we have to find some dollars,” Ward said, noting the issue was expected.
The state has conducted prior research into the construction of a third bridge, but Ward says those studies are incomplete and would not meet the federal requirements. For example, research into a loop around Baton Rouge would have included necessary environmental information on a new bridge, but the study ended early when it became clear the loop project would not be completed. Ward says he hopes any new studies would pick up where prior research left off.
“This is not going to be an instant process,” committee vice chair and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said. “We have to exercise due diligence at all levels. It’s going to take a while before we see the outcomes of our decisions.”
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by Matt Houston at WAFB