EBR council members set to decide if BTR plan will be put to November vote

EBR council members set to decide if BTR plan will be put to November vote
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The first major initiative of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's term will be tested Wednesday as EBR metro council members decide whether to send her Better Transportation and Roads (BTR) tax plan to the November ballot.

Broome has spent the better part of the summer hosting a series to public meetings to try and sell the plan to voters but that could all be for nothing if the council fails to approve the item.

"I remain very optimistic about it being on the ballot and I believe that the people of this city and parish want to see increased mobility," she said. "I can tell you that I have attended every public meeting and that the response that I've received has been a good response."

The project was presented less than a year after a similar tax to fund the Green Light plan was shot down by parish voters last December. This plan, which is strikingly similar to that plan focuses more on traffic management as well as fixing existing roadways and adding more capacity to others.

The vote must happen at the meeting in order to meet a September 25, 2017 deadline to get the tax to the Secretary of State's office to be placed on the ballot this fall.

"I think there are a number of council members who are not quite sure what they're going to do at this point," said councilwoman Barbara Freiberg.

Freiberg admits there are at least a handful of her colleagues that still oppose the plan. She says, among other things, a big part of the concern is that more attention should have been placed on drainage following last year's flood. The current version does not address those issues. Freiberg though says she is 100 percent sold on the idea for now.

"My support level is pretty high," Freiberg added. "I mean, I am in support of this."

The total price tag for the initiative is roughly $540 million. If approved, improvements to traffic lights will take about $40 million, $360 million will go for new roads, another $100 million will be used for sidewalk repairs and another $40 million for landscaping.

The cost of those improvements are expected to come from the tax, the rededication of an existing ½ cent sales tax and federal dollars.

While critics have said not all questions have been answered about the proposal, Freiberg believes it is a decision that should be left up to voters.

"I just think it's important to give the voters the opportunity to decide whether they want this or don't want it," said Freiberg.

If passed, voters can expect to have the final say on the measure on November 18, 2017.

More information about the plan can be found here.

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