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Proposed Mississippi River Bridge In Baton Rouge Moves Forward As Officials Consider Sites

mississippi bridge.jpg
Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator
The Interstate 10 Horace Wilkinson Bridge is congested with traffic crossing the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge on Monday, Sept. 29, 2021.

This story was originally published by The Louisiana Illuminator.

Officials and consultants with the Louisiana Department of Transportation have identified 17 potential sites for a new Mississippi River Bridge in the Greater Baton Rouge Area.

A new river crossing to alleviate traffic in Baton Rouge area has long been a wish of Baton Rouge politicians and residents alike. The most recently built bridge, which connects La. Highway 1 to La. Highway 30, carries more than 100,000 vehicles every day, many of which become snarled in congestion from West Baton Rouge Parish to the I-10/I-12 split.

The Capital Area Road and Bridge District, which was formed two years ago as a regional board of leaders to spearhead transportation issues, received a status briefing from the team studying the bridge project. That team includes the state Department of Transportation and Development and Atlas Technical Consultants, which has a contract to do the preliminary engineering work.

Kara Moree, a project manager with Atlas Technical Consultants, said the team initially identified 32 proposed sites along the river from Brusly to Donaldsonville and has since eliminated 15 through a round of screening that included navigational analysis, travel demand information and technical bridge parameters. They also eliminated sites that might contain protected wildlife, public recreational areas and other “sensitive resources,” she said.

One idea that was initially proposed was building a “twin span” of the Wilkinson Bridge, but when asked about it, Moree told district members the idea was nixed early on in the screening.

“It was not identified as feasible in this round one — and mostly due to our navigational constraints,” Moree said. “We saw that pretty early on that the river is very wide (there).”

District member Eric Kalivoda said funding for the bridge, aside from state and federal funding, will likely come from a toll.

“There is going to be a toll on this bridge,” Kalivoda said. “There’s no getting around that.”

The consultants are now beginning work on a second, more rigorous round of screening that will include public meetings, further traffic analysis, toll and revenue estimation and other considerations. Toll modeling will be a “really big piece” of that round, Moree said.

Several proposed sites located just south of Addis showed strong marks under the criteria of the first screening round, but transportation department project manager Paul Vaught told district members to not read too much into that because strong ratings in the first round are not necessarily an indicator of how they will perform in the second round.

Through the second round of screening, Moree said, the team will further whittle the list down to three of four alternatives. The shorter list of sites should be complete by fall 2022.