Environmental study could end sooner than expected on proposed Mississippi River bridge

The environmental study to determine the site of a proposed Mississippi River bridge that would connect east and west Iberville — and reduce traffic for the thousands of industrial workers in the region – could come earlier than expected.

The results of an environmental study on a proposed Mississippi River bridge could come sooner than expected.

That environmental study could be completed by the first part of next year, DOTD Secretary Dr. Eric Kalivoda said at last week’s meeting of the state Roads and Bridges Committee.

Completion of the study allow final selection of the location in early 2024 rather than summer.

“It’s interesting to see how they’re moving along that quickly,” Kalivoda said.

Meanwhile, uncertainty looms over how much – if any – the next governor will support the project.

State lawmakers last year allocated $300 million for the initial phase of the project, but the bridge has a total estimate price tag of at least $1.5 billion.

Kalivoda has said that the bridge will require a toll.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said he has talked to one gubernatorial candidate and told him the concerns about the project.

The project has been a major goal for Ourso since he took office in 1997.

He said his endorsement of a candidate in this fall’s gubernatorial candidate will weigh very heavily on support of the bridge.

Some residents along the Eastbank remain concerned about the location of the bridge and its impact on the area.

Resident Laura Comeaux, who spoke at the meeting, voiced concern that one of the sites could harm her cypress forest.

Final decision on the site is expected by mid-2024.

The state Department of Transportation last May narrowed the number of prospective sites from 10 to three.

One site is on the north end of Plaquemine, while the other two prospects are south of the city, about eight miles from White Castle.

The continuous growth of the petrochemical industry on both sides of the river has created thousands of jobs for residents across south Louisiana and has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the state economy.

It also has brought much more traffic to both sides of the river.

Atlas Technical Consultants and the Capital Area Road and Bridge Commission narrowed the megaproject to three sites, which helped the project secure the $300 million in initial funding from the Louisiana Legislature in last year’s regular session.

Atlas and the commission worked for the past year to whittle the project from more than 30 sites down to three. The sites were dotted along a four-parish area – Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville and West Baton Rouge – 62 miles along the Mississippi River from the Wilkinson Bridge (the new Mississippi River Bridge) up to the Sunshine Bridge, south of Donaldsonville.

Original Article April 5, 2023 • Source: Plaquemine Post South