BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There are five locations along the Mississippi River that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is looking into for a possible new bridge.
"There are only five locations that the Coast Guard will allow a bridge to be built because of the way the river moves," said DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson.
- Option 1 - Brusly to Baton Rouge
- Option 2 - Addis to Baton Rouge
- Option 3 - South of Plaquemine to St. Gabriel
- Option 4 - Addis to St. Gabriel
- Option 5 - Plaquemine to St. Gabriel
Dr. Wilson says there’s so much more involved than picking where a bridge could go.
“Which one has the most utility lines in the way? Which one will have the most traffic? Which one will offer the least amount of right of way acquisitions that will require displacements of families or businesses? Those are the comparisons you make. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘I want to cross right here,’” said Wilson.
He says in the case of the Audubon Bridge in St. Francisville, there were no studies done, so crews ran into all the aforementioned issues during construction. All of those questions would be answered in an environmental impact statement, also referred to as an alignment study. That study has yet to begin and will cost roughly $5 million. Another part of that study will include how to move traffic to and from the proposed bridge.
“How do you handle traffic on LA 30 because you’re going to have to widen LA 30 to four lanes from where the bridge puts down all the way to I-10 and to Baton Rouge ideally. What is that going to cost?” said Wilson.
Officials also have to figure out how to get drivers to the possible bridge without impacting the already congested LA 1 west of the river. The cost of a new bridge is estimated to be between $700 to 800 million. Add to that the connectors to get to the bridge and we’re talking about a total cost of around $1.1 billion.
Dr. Wilson says in order to get any federal money, he’s required to do an environmental impact study, which also will help him when it comes to getting public input on the bridge. That too, will be required.
“I’m going to have to go address farmers, industrial areas, businesses, communities. Folks are going to want to know what’s going to happen to the traffic on LA 1 and unless I do the homework and the due diligence to tell them what happens to that traffic, to tell them how you’re going to get back to I-10, I can’t answer those questions,” said Wilson.
When that environmental study begins, it’ll take three to five years to complete.