BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If there's one thing Baton Rouge residents can agree on, it's that traffic is a huge challenge, clogging roads and choking economic growth.
"It is by far, the number one issue of the business community in Baton Rouge. We hear it every day. We deal with nothing else than this traffic congestion mess we're in every day," said Adam Knapp, Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO.
It's no surprise then that the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit, which brings together area leaders and planners to discuss best practices on community growth, took time to focus on transportation.
The event's keynote speaker was U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He warned the crowd that Baton Rouge will only continue to grow.
"If feels like you're not getting anywhere on your roads because they're congested, just think about what it's going to be like five years from now, ten years from now," said Foxx.
For that reason, Foxx said it's important to focus on improving roads now. He also asked the crowd to urge their representatives in Washington to pass the Surface Transportation Bill currently before Congress that would help fund infrastructure improvements for several years.
"Once Congress passes a long term bill, we can stop talking about whether the lights are going to be on for a few more months and start doing long term projects that will dramatically reduce congestion," said Foxx.
When it comes to planning for the future, Foxx and his Louisiana counterpart at DOTD emphasized that transportation has to be a key factor. Both said that long term solutions can start by planning for alternative ways for residents to get around, like the proposed commuter train or even the Nicholson Corridor plan.
Local business leaders hope this is a message that will travel.
"It is so important in the gubernatorial election that the candidates are listening to this message. If they don't fund transportation solutions," said Knapp. "If they don't get that done in the next term, that first term, they are going to leave their economic centers high and dry."