Mayor Broome announces $15 million grant for Plank to Nicholson bus project

Federal funding boosts bus rapid transit project between Plank Road and Nicholson Drive

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Thursday, Nov. 7, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Capital Area Transit System (CATS), and Build Baton Rouge announced a $15 million discretionary federal grant for the Plank Road to Nicholson Drive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

Congressman Garret Graves says the grant will be awarded to the city-parish by US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao via the Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Grants program, which supports road, rail, transit, and port infrastructure projects nationwide.

The project will be the first BRT undertaking in Louisiana and will serve as a “central spine” for the region. The nine-mile route will connect north Baton Rouge, downtown, and LSU.

The project will connect north Baton Rouge, downtown, and LSU.
The project will connect north Baton Rouge, downtown, and LSU. (Source: Office of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome)

“This major federal investment in Baton Rouge transit is the result of deliberate and thoughtful transit planning, our community’s strong desire for vital transportation linkages between our neighborhoods and a demonstration of our willingness to maximize federal funds to implement a transformational transportation project,” said Broome.

It’s anticipated the project will cost a total of $40.2 million. It will feature enhanced transit stations with real-time information about bus arrivals and level boarding. The project should include a new bus transfer center on Airline Highway near Our Lady of the Lake North Emergency Room, as well as 22 pairs of stations and a layover facility at the southern end of the route. Additional improvements will help enhance connectivity to stations, improve pedestrian safety, provide ADA compliance, streamline traffic and transit operations, and enhance operational effectiveness, the mayor’s office says.

The grant will cover 37% of the total cost of the project. The remaining portion of the cost of the project will come from various places, including DOTD “Road Transfer” funds, MovEBR funds, and city-parish transit-specific federal formula funds. CATS has also pledged $7 million of the agency’s annually allocated federal transit formula funds for transit-specific elements of the project.

“The unique confluence of available local funding to match the federal dollars coupled with the synergy of the recently completed Plank Road corridor master plan and major development downtown and along the Nicholson Drive corridor made this BUILD Grant application extremely competitive. The strong partnership between the city-parish, CATS, Build Baton Rouge, and other supporting stakeholders for this project, more than 40 who signed letters of support for the application, should serve as a shining example for future infrastructure projects in Baton Rouge. We are fortunate at CATS to have vibrant relationship not only with our local partners, but our FTA Region VI officials as well,” said Bill Deville, CEO of CATS.

“We look forward to the implementation of this Plank-Nicholson BRT, as it will serve as the blueprint to realize the greater future BRT networks CATS is planning along the major corridors of the city-parish. This network can only be realized with the continued collaboration of our local, state, regional, and federal partners,” Deville continued.

This project will serve as the centerpiece of the recently unveiled Imagine Plank Road corridor master plan, a project that’s being led by Build Baton Rouge.

“From the outset we knew that transit-oriented development was essential in our efforts to revitalize disinvested areas like the Plank Road corridor. The BUILD grant and the BRT system it will support is a game-changer for this community. We now have a powerful story of our ability to work together towards innovative solutions to addres not only urban transit needs, but broader equitable development goals,” said Chris Tyson, CEO of Build Baton Rouge. “This project has the great potential to not only be the catalyst for redevelopment of a historic North Baton Rouge corridor, but simultaneously serve as the catalyst for connecting north and south Baton Rouge, anchored by downtown, unlike any other project in recent memory.”

The mayor’s office says environmental review for the project is already underway. Environmental approval of the project is expected to happen sometime in early 2020, with design and engineering moving forward in 2020 as well, followed by construction. Revenue service should begin in early 2023.

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