New CRISIS report identifies top four projects for easing Baton Rouge congestion

Widening Interstate 10 through Baton Rouge and creating a new Ascension Parish commuter route on I-10 or Airline Highway are the regional transportation solutions that would deliver the most bang for the buck in addressing the region’s traffic and infrastructure problems, according to a report released this morning.

Two other key projects identified in the report are construction of a new bridge across the Mississippi River south of I-10 and increasing use of the old U.S. 190 bridge by constructing a north bypass as proposed under the Baton Rouge Urban Mobility Plan, or BUMP.

The recommendations are outlined in a report from CRISIS, a coalition of industry leaders and elected officials who began working together in early 2015 to develop a consensus around potential solutions to the Capital Region’s chronic gridlock.

The four projects were singled out after an exhaustive analysis of 18 potential high-dollar projects, all of which involved increasing capacity by widening existing roads and bridges or building new ones.

The projects were analyzed using a regional transportation model for comparative analysis. Key metrics used included each project’s projected reduction in regional vehicle hours of travel along with best available cost estimates done in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to arrive at ratios of “congestion relief for the cost” derived for comparison.

“This is really an unprecedented collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in our region that hopefully will spur action based on data-driven solutions,” says Johnny Milazzo, owner of Lard Oil Company and a member of CRISIS in a prepared statement.

The estimated cost of widening I-10 in one or both directions through Baton Rouge is $350 million, while the new Ascension parish commuter route would cost between $125 million and $180 million. A new bridge would easily top $1.5 billion without tolls, though toll could reduce the cost to between $830 million and $1.3 billion, while increased use of the U.S. 190 bridge via a BUMP or North Bypass could cost as much as $780 million without tolls and $305 million with tolls.

“While solutions are not cheap, enhancing and adding bridges will provide a significant return on investment both in terms of money and time saved,” says Sen. Rick Ward, R-Baton Rouge in a prepared statement.

While all of the solutions identified in the CRISIS report are long-term, big-ticket projects, the report’s findings overall suggest that multiple projects are needed for true congestion relief and that tolling can be a part of a broader funding strategy.

See the full report.

—Stephanie Riegel

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