Officials expect to begin the next phase of the Baton Rouge Loop within days, with expectations that financing will be found for the long-discussed highway project. The initial financial analysis, which found that the project was feasible, was completed before the downturn of the bond market. Mike Bruce of ABMB Engineers says the economic outlook is expected to improve by the time they run the numbers again, sometime in the next year or so. “If we did that analysis today, it wouldn’t be very good,” he says. “The project hasn’t suffered yet from the problems in the bond market, mainly because the analysis hasn’t started back up again.” Bonds backed by toll revenue, additional public funding, and a private-sector partnership all need to come together to fund the Loop, he says.
The Loop is expected to cost between $3.6 billion and $4.5 billion in 2008 dollars. “We’re still confident we can start construction of the Loop in the next four to five years,” says city-parish CAO Mike Futrell. The northern segment of the Loop would most likely be the first to start construction, he says.
The lead firms, HNTB and ABMB, have returned a signed contract to the Capital Area Expressway Authority, governed by the presidents of the five Loop-affected parishes, and expect a notice to proceed this week. The “implementation phase,” completed last year, narrowed down the possible corridors, while the next phase will determine the highway’s exact design and route, with public hearings slated for the spring. More information is available at brloop.com.—David Jacobs