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Poll: Majority of Baton Rouge voters support tax for traffic improvements

A poll conducted earlier this month shows that voters in East Baton Rouge Parish would overwhelmingly support a five-mil dedicated property tax to fund new road, infrastructure and traffic control projects.

Results from the poll, conducted by Southern Media and Opinion Research and funded by nearly a dozen members of the Baton Rouge business community, was, in part, the basis for Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s announcement Monday that she will seek a five-mil, 20-year tax designed to address the area’s worsening gridlock. Voters last year defeated former Mayor Kip Holden’s Green Light II Plan, which would have focused primarily on new road and bridge projects.

Broome’s plan will apparently also include traffic control systems, though she has not yet released a list of specific projects.

According to the results of the poll, conducted between June 30 and July 3, 65.1% of voters said they would support a five-mil tax dedicated to “improving existing public roads, constructing new public roads and funding drainage projects,” says pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who conducted the survey of 400 registered voters.

More than 81% agreed the city-parish needs a computerized traffic control center that will synchronize traffic signals and left turn signals.

And 87% of those polls said traffic congestion was the area’s most serious problem—ranking it above flooding and drainage concerns.

“The public is not interested in just putting down more concrete,” Pinsonat says. “They understand you can put all the concrete down that you want, but if you put down 15 red lights you haven’t made their lives any better.”

Nearly a dozen business leaders paid for the poll in a process facilitated by CSRS executive Walter Monsour, who heads the firm’s government advisory practice. CSRS, which has been the city’s Green Light Plan project manager since 2006, did not put up any money for the poll, which cost about $15,000. Rather, it helped bring interested parties together to get a sense of the public’s mood on the issue.

Monsour, who was once Holden’s chief administrative officer, and CSRS President Tim Barfield, say it made sense, given the firm’s role in the first Greenlight Plan, for CSRS to be involved in gathering data for a potential new bond issue.

“We’re the original Green Light program manager and have been for 11 years so we have a lot of data and information,” Barfield says. “So we were in a natural place to get out there and the missing piece was really understanding the public appetite for this new tax. So when the mayor asked, a number of us said, ‘OK, we’ll help you out.’”

Broome has not yet announced specific projects that would be funded by the dedicated tax, though she said Monday she hoped to present a list to the Metro Council before Wednesday’s meeting. The council must vote on whether to put the measure on the fall ballot.

Monsour says CSRS has been working with Department of Streets Director Fred Raiford on the list of projects and will have something ready soon.

“The projects we’re working on as we speak and will be ready in time for the council members to see and put out to the public,” he says.

—Stephanie Riegel

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