BATON ROUGE – A new bridge across the Mississippi River could benefit Livingston and four other parishes in the Capital Area Road and Bridge District, but who pays for it could be a different story, Parish President Layton Ricks said.
A new bridge across the Mississippi River could cost between $750 million and $1 billion, according to Department of Transportation and Development Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda. Funding alternatives could include private-public partnerships, the tolls, state, and federal dollars.
The project could also involve a tax, which could lead to a dead end for support from Livingston Parish, Ricks said.
“I certainly think anything we can do to eliminate traffic on Interstate 12 and the Mississippi River Bridge would benefit everyone, but I don’t think in any way people in Livingston Parish would support a new tax,” he said. “If you took a poll and ask if you’d like to see a new Mississippi River Bridge, they’d support it, but you’d get an overwhelming ‘no’ on a tax proposition.”
Ricks serves on a five-parish coalition with presidents from East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, and West Baton Rouge, along with DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson and governor appointee Mike Wampold.
Thousands of Livingston Parish residents cross the Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge daily, predominately for jobs in the petrochemical industry. But he believes Livingston Parish residents already feel “overtaxed,” particularly after the failure of tax propositions for drainage districts, recreation and school construction.
Five different alignment alternatives have already been devised, all of which include bridges with six lanes and six shoulders on both sides for future expansion. Ricks believes the bridge could come to fruition but said it would likely take years – more than a decade – because of the myriad of studies it involves.
A price tag is also premature.
“We don’t even know where it would locate,” he said. “Until they make that decision, it will be very difficult to say how much it will cost.”
Plans also call for the restructuring, widening and repair of La. 30, which extends from Gonzales into East Baton Rouge Parish along a petrochemical corridor parallel to the Mississippi River.
He believes residents in Livingston Parish are very conscientious about traffic and the need for a new bridge, but they’re also concerned how the tax dollars are spent.
“They’ll view this as something more for East Baton Rouge or Ascension, and something that the federal government should pay rather than parishes,” Ricks said.