Get the latest on the Mississippi River bridge project

Planning work continues on a new bridge across the Mississippi River to alleviate local traffic on Interstate 10 through Baton Rouge, reports Louisiana Illuminator. Tolls are being considered to help pay for the $3 billion crossing, but a recent vote from state lawmakers to scrap a comparable project has put planners on notice.

The three paths under consideration for the new Mississippi River bridge, all in Iberville Parish, are in the second half of environmental assessments. Along with surveys for construction suitability and utilities clearance, a toll and traffic analysis will take place to measure the potential of user fees to help pay for the new bridge.

Kara Moree, project manager for Atlas Technical Consultants, provided an update Monday for Capital Area Road and Bridge District commissioners, a group of local leaders overseeing the project and its funding. A final route is expected to be chosen later next year.

When asked about the ongoing toll research, Moree acknowledged the recent roadblock for a toll-funded I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles. In October, state lawmakers rejected a financing plan for the $2.1 billion bridge dependent on tolls. The vote put the project on hold until officials can figure out a new funding approach, one that would likely require plenty of state dollars.

“It keeps me up at night a bit. I’m worried about it,” Moree says with a slight laugh before she explains how the proposed Mississippi River bridge differs from the Calcasieu project.

For starters, the Iberville span is not an interstate bridge, and the trucking industry, which led opposition to the Calcasieu toll, won’t rely as heavily on the Iberville bridge, Moree says.

Given the close proximity of industry along the Mississippi River to the Iberville bridge, it was recommended that consultants look into “mitigation” in case similar opposition to tolls emerges.

Moree added that the Mississippi River crossing doesn’t replace an existing bridge, “which I think is a little bit easier to swallow than something that you’ve been using for your whole life but now have to pay for it.”

District chairman J.H. Campbell Jr., an appointee of Gov. John Bel Edwards, says $300 million has been allocated for the Iberville bridge project along with a portion of the state vehicle sales tax.

Additional public hearings on the bridge path options are expected to take place in the spring as they move toward the next stage of environmental approval, Moree said.

Read the full story from Louisiana Illuminator.