WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - A major shot in the arm for Louisiana’s infrastructure came out of the capitol Monday, June 3.
One of the biggest projects is a connector for West Baton Rouge Parish to ease some traffic off the interstate. This is possible thanks to House Bill 578, which is “all but guaranteed to pass.
“We finally got it done and it’s an exciting day for the entire state,” said Senator Rick Ward.
Sen. Ward is one of the authors of HB 578. The bill took litigation dollars from the BP oil spill in April of 2010. The explosion killed 11 people. It’s why legislators held a moment of silence in their honor Monday.
It was also the worst oil spill in U.S. waters. Now, nearly $700 million in lawsuit funds will go from being put into the state’s savings account into the construction fund.
"We've tried for 20 years to get this project funded and it's finally here. We've got the funding in place to move forward," said Sen. Ward.
West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley “Peewee” Berthelot has been hoping for the connector between LA 415 and LA 1 for years now, with plans already drawn up. The project will cost about $125 million. It’ll include two lanes in each direction for three miles. The goal is to get drivers off at LA 415 to funnel them towards LA 1 instead of waiting on I-10. Currently, Berthelot says they’re in the process of updating the environmental study.
"I think we could have it ready to go to construction probably within a year to 18 months," said Berthelot.
Once construction begins, Berthelot says it could be finished in about three years.
Other projects include stretching I-49 south from Lafayette to Gretna, again, in hopes of getting drivers off I-10.
The project to widen Hooper Road will actually tack onto MoveEBR’s plan. This one will widen Hooper Road for three miles between Sullivan Road and Greenwell Springs.
"It could pull as much as 30,000 vehicles off of I-12 once that's completed," said Sen. Ward.
The bill passed the Senate with just about every dollar designated for specific projects all around the state. Plus, by the time you add in all the federal and state match dollars and any other construction funds, “This is going to be well over a billion dollars in projects, each and every one of them having an economic impact in their area,” said Sen. Page Cortez.
"If you want to have a good economy, if you want to have people moving into your state from around the country, if you want to have businesses and industry continue to look at Louisiana as a place to be, you've got to have roads and bridges for them to drive on," said Sen. Ward.
On the 415 connector, Berthelot says they’re already in the bidding process to find an engineering firm for the project.