Not a week goes by that Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister doesn’t hear a conversation about traffic all over town or the need for a “new” bridge.
“But if you want to discover the real culprit and to see how we ended up with much of the traffic mess, just look at the John James Audubon Bridge in St. Francisville or what McCollister has dubbed the “Spinosa-Raiford Memorial Bridge” on Corporate Boulevard.
“It wasn’t a money issue. It was a question of priority and the greater good. The greater good lost—and we all pay for it now and complain loudly. Too late,” McCollister writes in his latest column. “These two bridges are both memorials to pure politics. Did we learn anything?”
Baton Rouge’s “new” span over the Mississippi River, the Horace Wilkinson Bridge, turned 50-years-old in April. McCollister notes that it was another 38 years after it was completed for construction to begin on a truly “new bridge” across the Mississippi River in the Capital Region.
Work on the Audubon Bridge—which McCollister notes isn’t connected to the interstate system or located where the real traffic needs are—began in 2006.
“The beautiful structure of steel and concrete cost $409 million and took five years to complete, opening in May of 2011,” he writes. “Some who have visited the bridge say they could have had a picnic on it and not been disturbed.”
The Audubon Bridge is a “travesty” when one considers the daily traffic jams going east and west on Interstate 10, McCollsiter says, not to mention the fact that we are at least five years from relief and still don’t have a plan in place for a new Baton Rouge bridge. The other bridge McCollister refers to is a local Baton Rouge project, a pedestrian bridge that “serves as another fine example of politics trumping the public good and even logic.”
The bridge crosses the canal on Corporate Boulevard. It was built when Tommy Spinosa developed The Gates apartments, and was meant to connect people to his CitiPlace shopping center without them having to use the existing Corporate Boulevard bridge, which has no sidewalk.
“A bridge was built, but it was approved to be placed behind the restricted gates and cut off from public use,” McCollister writes. “It too rarely has any traffic and is basically a private facility. This stands as a testament to poor planning and pure politics at City Hall. And there are many more examples of “dumb growth” throughout our parish. We all pay the price daily. But as I have written before, Fred Raiford, who was a master at this type of “growth” and politics, is back in City Hall to guide EBR into the future. That’s a step backwards. I guess we didn’t learn our lesson the first time.”