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Louisiana parish to help fund highway study

About 47,000 vehicles travel each day on Louisiana Highway 1 near the Intracoastal Waterway bridge in West Baton Rouge Parish. (The Trucker file photo)

The Associated Press

8/25/2014

 PLAQUEMINE, La.  — The Iberville Parish Council has agreed to share the cost of a feasibility study that could lead to a new highway and bridge on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Ascension and Iberville parishes.

The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/Yz35e9) Iberville is offering $175,000 to match state funding approved during the 2014 legislative session to pay an engineering firm to research a proposal for a four-lane highway between Interstate 10 near Port Allen and Interstate 310 west of New Orleans. The project is known as the West Bank Connector.

The study also would consider construction of a bridge over the Mississippi River to connect Louisiana Highway 1 and Louisiana Highway 30, most likely in Iberville.

Officials said the highway and bridge would relieve traffic congestion and provide a hurricane evacuation route.

The possible highway and bridge have gained backing from local officials as traffic congestion along Louisiana Highway 1 in Port Allen becomes an increasing headache for government officials as well as businesses and residents.

According to 2013 transportation department data, about 47,000 vehicles travel each day on Louisiana Highway 1 near the Intracoastal Waterway bridge in West Baton Rouge Parish. But only 24,573 people live in West Baton Rouge, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The parish is really taking a hit with commerce and jobs," Iberville Council President Matthew Jewell said during the council's meeting on Aug. 19. "Can we all agree a new bridge is very much needed?"

State officials estimate the cost of a new bridge at about $800 million.

Earlier in August the Ascension Parish Council approved an agreement to enter into the funding partnership with Iberville.

Ascension is putting up $125,000. Iberville's share is larger because a new bridge probably would be built there, said Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso.

Total cost of the study will be about $1.7 million, Ourso said.

"You are talking about something that might be 10 to 15 years off if it materializes," he said. "All we're trying to do is position ourselves for the bridge."

Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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