BATON ROUGE – Plans for a new Mississippi River bridge are being pushed back again after the gas tax failed to gain support in the state’s legislature.
It’s no secret that bad traffic is widespread in the Capital Region. But the traffic along the current Mississippi River bridge is some of the worst.
“I know some people who sit in traffic for up to four hours a day trying to make it across the bridge,” one driver said.
“In the evenings getting off from work when you’re going into Plaquemine and in the morning when you’re going out of Plaquemine. The ferry boat landing is real heavy. we need a bridge real bad in this area,” another driver said.
State officials said work could have started on a new bridge in 10 years if lawmakers had passed the gas tax this week. Adam Knapp with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber said the action to take no action on the bill has set the project back.
“The legislature, by its action, failed the baton rouge area. we’re not going to have a bridge in the next ten years,” Knapp said.
Many people have asked if putting a toll on the bridge would help it pay for itself. But according to Knapp, the funds raised through a toll would not cover the overall cost of a new bridge.
“Tolls, if you could use tolls to do it may cover 25 percent of the total cost,” Knapp said.
Despite the amount of traffic that comes through Baton Rouge, state officials say we still need more money on the front end of the project to build the bridge. Others have suggested the state and local governments should build the bridge because they’re are already collection enough taxes.
“To raise a billion dollars of public resources is unlikely something the public would do on a local level or even a regional level to come up with that kind of revenue,” Knapp said.
The state’s share for the bridge could equal about half of the cost of the TOPS scholarship program for a whole year. It is difficult to get lawmakers from outside the Baton Rouge area to agree to pay for such a costly project.
There are also options like raising property or sales taxes just in the Capital Region. Or the possibility of leasing off public lands to giant investment firms who, in turn, would help pay for the bridge. But the bottom line is Louisiana doesn’t provide the same level of funding for its roads and bridges likes most other states do. And state officials say until that changes, Baton Rouge residents will continue to have traffic problems.