The Capital Area Road and Bridge District has secured $5 million in state surplus dollars, allocated to the state Department of Transportation and Development, to complete the environmental work necessary for the future development of a new Mississippi River span.
Securing the money is a significant step forward for the five-parish coalition, which previously had no finances. The funds will be used to move forward with preliminary work in the quest to bring a new bridge to the Capital Region, says state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who created the CARB-D last year.
The next step will be to put out a request for qualifications within the next few months to hire a project manager for the district, who will oversee the environmental process.
“We intend to have it contracted out by the end of the year,” says DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, a member of the road and bridge authority.
How long the environmental process will take isn’t clear, Wilson says, because much of the work that will need to be done won’t be determined until the process is underway.
“Still, we’re looking at a three- to four-year window—easy,” he adds.
In the meantime, CARB-D will continue working on what will amount to a much-larger challenge—securing funds to actually build the bridge.
“The hardest piece of the puzzle will be how do we pay for it,” Ward says. “Even if someone says they’ll put up $1 billion, great—but we have to pay it back. How do we do that? Tolls? Taxes?”
Advocates for the new bridge have said the solution will likely require both tolls and taxes. There’s also hope the district can draw down federal funding, but a development plan for the new bridge must be in place to do so.