Plan Rejects $800M Baton Rouge Loop Plan

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A state panel has rejected an engineering firm's bid to build an $800 million, high-speed toll road around Baton Rouge.

         The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports the decision came Tuesday after a consultant hired by the state said the project could cost taxpayers up to $400 million, which backers disputed.

         Sherri LeBas, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the potential state price tag was "a very big factor" in the vote by the Louisiana Transportation Authority.

         "There is just not enough information," said LeBas, who is on the nine-member panel.

         House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, chairwoman of the LTA, made a similar point earlier in the meeting. "At the end of the day, we don't have any extra money for any of these wonderful projects," St. Germain said.

         The state has a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge needs, and general state budget problems that are expected to spark a special session when a new governor takes office in January.

         The plan, which was not solicited by the state, was offered by AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm with offices around the world, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

         The proposal, named the Baton Rouge Urban Renewal and Mobility Plan, or BUMP, would link interstates 10, 12 and 110 and U.S. 61 and U.S. 190 in a new path around often-congested Baton Rouge.

         It would have extended 23 miles from I-10 near Pecue Lane in East Baton Rouge Parish, follow a revamped Airline Highway and go across the U.S. 190 bridge to a point on I-10 about 4 miles west of the La. 415 interchange in West Baton Rouge Parish.

         Robert Schmidt, a Baton Rouge engineer and the AECOM official who served as point person on the project, said the work would modernize transportation in Baton Rouge, would relieve pressure on I-10 and could open in 2022.

         William Daniel, chief administrative officer for East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden, said the mayor prefers that such projects undergo review by area officials.

         "He thought there should be meetings," Daniel said. "They were never held."

         He said the key topic for the city-parish is solutions for traffic entering Baton Rouge on the I-10 bridge.

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