CRISIS releases Capital Region Mobility Strategy - Proposed Blueprint Endorsed by Regional Leadership

CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today released a new Capital Region Mobility Strategy (CRMS) report aimed at taking Baton Rouge out of the basement of transportation rankings and making it a model city for mobility and long-term resilience. Developed in conjunction with regional stakeholders by a consultant team led by Kimley-Horn, one of the nation's premier planning and design engineering firms, the report confirms the major transportation infrastructure challenges of the Baton Rouge area, reaffirms the need for significant projects like a new Mississippi River crossing, and outlines numerous strategies for a holistic blueprint for improved mobility.

“While efforts to fund new transportation infrastructure earlier this year fell short, the problems remain and will only grow worse without action,” said Tom Yura, Senior Vice President at BASF.  “Workers, commuters, and businesses are clamoring for a viable plan moving forward.  We believe this report offers not only a blueprint of what’s needed, but also a call to action to get it done.”

The CRMS, funded through a grant secured by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber from the Louisiana Office of Community Development, takes a deliberate look at the region’s transportation system, working in tandem with the Capital Region Planning Commission’s Long-Range Transportation Plan Update, Move 2042. The CRMS balances a variety of competing interests, including changing funding levels, shifting demographics, a growing economy, rising expectations, and natural uncertainty. The strategy aligns short- and long-term transportation strategies with broader regional goals and initiatives such as mobility, safety, and the region’s economic vitality.

Scott Kirkpatrick, CRISIS executive director, pointed to the importance of having this strategy in place. He said, “Regions that can consistently name their top priorities have had success in funding them. CRISIS continues to push for strong coordination between local, regional and state levels to keep leadership aligned on our top regional priorities. These strategies will help us focus on outcomes.”

The CRMS was developed with focused input from stakeholders, including practitioners, major employers and elected officials from the five-parish region who participated in the Strategic Mobility Forum in October 2016 and the two rounds of public meetings hosted by the Capital Region Planning Commission as part of their Move 2042 update process. The CRMS is meant to complement and augment the development of the Long Range Transportation Plan Update, a federally-mandated and fiscally constrained plan that assigns projected transportation funding that will be available over the next five years. The CRMS emphasizes some elements of the Move 2042 plan, while also highlighting important policies, programs and ideas that fall outside of that plan and require multiple partnerships to advance.

An overview of CRMS strategies include:

  • Capacity and Efficiency
    • Enhanced River Crossings, the region’s most often-cited need
    • Regional Arterials, establishing priorities for cross-parish commuter routes
    • Transportation Technology, expanding existing capabilities and creating a shared regional system
  • Travel Choice and Management
    • Active Transportation Alternatives, expanding non-auto connectivity
    • Travel Demand Management, embracing the Commuter Krewe ridesharing program
    • Shared Ride Transit Services, exploring commuter-focused regional transit
  • Policy and Partnerships
    • Complete & Safe Streets, establishing policies to improve safety and non-auto networks
    • Smart Growth Initiatives, planning communities to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and growth externalities such as increased roadway congestion
    • Regional Leadership & Collaboration, increasing the participation of community and business leaders in decision-making 

Each individual strategy will have a limited impact in isolation, but multiple coordinated actions and incremental decisions will result in significant mobility improvement. The CRMS emphasizes long term outcomes that can help shape priorities and guide decision making, and includes a series of case studies to illustrate potential benefits. Capital Region Planning Commission Executive Director Jamie Setze said, “The CRMS, developed hand in hand with the Move 2042 Long Range Transportation Plan update, takes a holistic view of all the considerations impacting Capital Region mobility. These strategies provide a way forward on shared priorities, highlighting elements of the Move 2042 plan within a broader context. The CRMS will be a valuable tool in helping to inform our decision-making and measure our progress as a region.” 

Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa stated, “As a regional partner in the Capital Region’s transportation strategy, Ascension Parish recognizes the unprecedented growth in population, job creation, traffic and congestion in the metropolitan area. Ascension Parish is pleased to work with our regional partners on combined priorities that align with our diverse community objectives, including the Capital Region Mobility Strategy.”

“This Mobility Strategy confirms, re-presents, and uncovers new data for our many transportation problems and potential solutions. Furthermore, this extensive work undertaken by CRISIS serves to demonstrate that future transportation decisions – for example, the location of bridges in the Baton Rouge region – be based on data and not driven by politics,” said West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot.

To review the complete Capital Region Mobility Strategy, see http://trafficcrisis.com/crms/

Posted on November 20, 2017 .

Louisiana Voters OK Measure to Tighten Transportation Spending

Louisiana officials agree that the state's roads need fixing. Beyond that, though, they can’t seem to agree on what to do about it. But they did make some progress earlier this month toward a solution when the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment to safeguard any money raised by new gas taxes.

Not that there will be any new gas tax revenues for the foreseeable future. Legislative attempts to raise the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which hasn’t changed in 28 years, haven't been successful. But the public's support of Amendment 3 at least removes one of the main arguments against raising that tax.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Posted on October 24, 2017 .

CRISIS announces support for Green Light Plan ballot propositions

Group highlights EBR commuter data, points to 3 keys to enhancing worker mobility, travel options

CRISIS announced its support for two propositions that will appear on the December 10 ballot in East Baton Rouge parish that would expand and extend transportation and infrastructure improvements through the Green Light Plan to address traffic congestion inside the parish.

While CRISIS has previously stressed the importance of cross-parish, or regionally significant improvements, as shown in a Regional Projects Analysis released in February of this year, commuter data also strongly indicates the need for improvements within the region’s largest parish.  According to a CRISIS analysis of Census data, 69 percent of working East Baton Rouge residents commute to work somewhere within the parish itself, while 55 percent of all East Baton Rouge workers experience commute times of 20 minutes or more.

In announcing its support for the ballot initiatives, CRISIS also highlighted three key opportunities for the parish through the plan’s implementation, in keeping with principles the group has emphasized since its formation.

“We believe the projects covered by the plan, which was developed by consulting previous planning efforts and from public input, will have a positive impact on traffic conditions and quality of life in East Baton Rouge parish,” said Cordell Haymon, Senior Vice President, SGS Petroleum Service Corp. and CRISIS leadership member.  “Given the flexibility that has reasonably been built into the plan, precisely how the plan will be implemented is just as important as the projects themselves.  We believe the implementation can achieve optimal results for enhancing worker mobility and travel options in three key ways: first, by making data-driven decisions to prioritize construction of projects that address the worst traffic hotspots, and result in greatest congestion relief for the dollar; second, by embracing street connectivity opportunities in the construction plan; and third, by adhering to ‘complete streets’ policies that expand mobility options.”

If the ballot initiatives are approved, both of which are required for the plan to move forward, the new Green Light Plan would authorize a 5-mill property tax for 30 years, generating $450 million through 2046 to build 45 major road capacity improvement projects.  A five mill property tax will cost a homeowner with a $200,000 home about $62.50 a year, or just over $5 a month.  The program would also, at no additional cost to taxpayers, rededicate the Green Light Plan’s original half-cent sales tax to build 150 rehabilitation and community enhancement projects through 2030.

National studies have noted that the Baton Rouge region ranks third worst in the nation among mid-sized cites for traffic, and that congestion and road conditions cost the average driver more than $1,900 per year.

 

Posted on November 29, 2016 .

CRISIS releases transportation infrastructure “state of the region” Report

CRISIS today released a State of the Region report, an initial briefing book that includes research and other findings related to transportation infrastructure, as a starting point to developing a Capital Region Mobility Strategy. 

Download the full report here.

The Capital Region Mobility Strategy is the latest CRISIS initiative, and serves as a follow up to its Regional Projects Analysis released in February of this year.  The Capital Region Mobility Strategy takes a deliberate look at the region’s transportation system, working in tandem with the Capital Region Planning Commission’s Long Range Transportation Plan Update.  The goal is to align short- and long-term transportation strategies with broader regional goals and initiatives, including mobility, safety, and the region’s economic vitality.  This initial briefing is the first step in the process, which will culminate with a final action plan.

"This report provides additional insight into the challenges and opportunities we face in moving around the Capital Region, said CRISIS Executive Director Scott Kirkpatrick.  As we get smarter about our transportation system, I am excited to see our region coalescing around funding, program and project solutions."

This initiative also comes at an opportune time, in the context of the Governor’s Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment, which recently held a regional hearing in Baton Rouge, as well as the work of the joint House and Senate transportation committees, which recently held a “road show” hearing in Baton Rouge.

The State of the Region report includes research and analysis related to five areas of study:

  • Infrastructure Performance: The condition and effectiveness of existing roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure
  • Land Use and Urban Form: The organization and distribution of the built environment
  • Resilience and Preparedness: The mitigation of threats to critical infrastructure and emergency response
  • Travel Options: The provision of transit service, regional bicycle infrastructure, and demand-based solutions
  • Regional Competitiveness: The Capital Region’s ability to attract and retain a competitive workforce

The State of the Region report also includes feedback on these study areas and other topics, based on interactive responses gathered from stakeholders during a Strategic Mobility Forum held on October 7.  Approximately 60 people attended the event, representing three groups: elected officials, practitioners, and private industry representatives.

Major points of feedback from the forum included:

·         Infrastructure performance ranked as the highest priority among all groups surveyed

·         92 percent of participants said that increased transportation funding was “absolutely necessary” for the region to be successful

·         A new bridge over the Mississippi River was the most frequent transportation project or initiative requested

·         Increasing transit options was another popular suggestion, as 100 percent of participants rated regional travel options as poor

The Capital Region Mobility Strategy is a project to increase workforce mobility and transportation network resiliency in the Capital Region. The project is headed by Kimley-Horn, one of the nation’s premier planning and design firms, and made possible by funding from the Louisiana Division of Administration, Disaster Recovery Unit, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Posted on October 19, 2016 .

CRISIS hails plan for widening I-10 commuter route between EBR and Ascension parishes

CRISIS hailed the announcement by Governor John Bel Edwards and Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson that the state has identified funding and will expedite construction to widen I-10 between Highland Road in East Baton Rouge and LA 73 in Ascension Parish.

The announcement follows the release by CRISIS earlier this year of an analysis of major regional transportation infrastructure projects, which found that a longer version of the project (stretching to LA 22) would provide the most congestion relief for the dollar.

Robert Burgess, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Ascension, and member of CRISIS leadership, said: “We are thrilled with the governor’s decision to invest additional transportation dollars into this vital commuter corridor, and in the design-build process that will allow this project to proceed as quickly as possible. While I-10 widening does need to be extended beyond LA 73, this project will provide an enormous benefit to the Capital Region.  This decision also represents the kind of data-based transportation decision-making that CRISIS has long advocated for.  In the regional projects comparison commissioned by CRISIS, this project provided far and away the most congestion relief benefit for the dollar. We are looking forward to hosting the governor’s transportation task force in October, where we can place additional focus on the rest of the Capital Region’s urgent infrastructure needs.”

Commissioned by CRISIS, the analysis was led by Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) Executive Director Jamie Setze and the CRPC’s transportation planners, in an effort to begin to forge regional consensus based on data-driven solutions.

To conduct the analysis, a team of CRISIS representatives, parish presidents or their representatives, legislators, and CRPC staff identified projects with regional significance for analysis, with consideration given to all regional projects in the State Long Range Plan.  Then, 18 major transportation projects were analyzed using a regional transportation model for comparative analysis.  Key metrics used included each project’s projected reduction in regional Vehicle Hours of Travel (VHT), along with “best available” cost estimates done in conjunction with DOTD, to arrive at ratios of “congestion relief for the cost” derived for comparison.

Projects were also compared based on groupings among four different categories, based on whether they were a new Mississippi River crossing, a large regional project, a small regional project, or addressed the region’s “urban core.”

General findings of the analysis concluded that:

·         Multiple projects are needed for regional congestion relief

·         Highest benefit projects involve crossing the Mississippi River (New bridge and increased use of old bridge)

·         Best benefit/cost projects involve improving commute to Ascension Parish and one additional lane in both directions of I-10 through Baton Rouge

·         Tolling can be a part of broader funding strategy – with project tolling revenue projections ranging from 25% to 60% of project cost

Based on the analysis and findings, a recommended Regional Solution would consist of the following project priorities:

  • I-10 Widening (one lane in both directions) Through Baton Rouge
  • Ascension Commuter Route (I-10 to LA 22)
  • New River Crossing South of I-10 Bridge (With LA 30 Widening)
  • Increase Use of US 190 Bridge (BUMP or North Bypass)

The full presentation of the analysis report can be found online by clicking here.

Posted on September 15, 2016 .

Gov. Edwards Announces Major Transportation Development Project

September 13, 2016

BATON ROUGE - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced another major development in his administration’s commitment to improving multimodal transportation through Louisiana. With the support of the Joint Transportation Committee, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is prepared to begin a Design-Build solicitation to widen I-10 from Highland Rd. to LA 73. Once completed, this project will offer welcome relief to commuters between Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes.  

“When I took office in January, my administration made a commitment to better maintain and build our state's infrastructure,” said Gov. Edwards. “Design-Build authority and leadership that can incorporate federal and state policy to our advantage can deliver big, meaningful projects for the state. This is only the beginning of what we can do together.”

DOTD plans to build this new segment of I-10 using FAST ACT authority allowing the state to repurpose certain federal earmarked funds. This federal transportation legislation authorizes state transportation departments to reallocate earmarks where money is remaining after projects were completed or had less than 10% obligated and were older than 10 years. It is widely anticipated that if Louisiana does not spend these dollars, they will be swept and lost to other states.

“We took a hard look at the language included in the FAST ACT and determined how best to use this to our advantage without hurting any community or project,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.

DOTD identified eligible projects within its annual program in the same area as the original earmarked projects. The earmarked funds will be repurposed for these projects, in accordance with federal law, which in turn frees up regular highway funds. As a result, DOTD has pooled enough funds to widen this very critical section of I-10. In addition, DOTD has shortened the Design-Build procurement process by approximately 3-4 months, meaning this project will be under contract before this time next year.

The proposed project begins approximately 1/4 mile west of the I-10/Highland Rd. interchange and ends approximately 1/2 mile east of the I-10/LA 73 Interchange, a distance of approximately 7.0 miles. The project, as proposed, will widen the existing I-10 from a four-lane freeway section to a six-lane freeway section. 

Because this project impacts travel conditions of the busiest stretch of interstate in Louisiana, Gov. Edwards and Secretary Wilson are requesting that the Chairman of the House and Senate Transportation Committees convene a joint committee meeting as soon as possible to authorize DOTD to begin the procurement process as outlined in law. 

BACKGROUND
The I-10 corridor across Louisiana is critical to moving freight from the western coast of California to the eastern coast of Florida. Earlier this year, the state of Louisiana, through DOTD, was awarded a $60M FASTLANE grant to widen I-10 from I-49 to the Atchafalaya Basin. Gov. Edwards recently announced that DOTD is set to receive an additional $40M because of their ability to spend all federal dollars made available to them. This will bring the total expected investment in this project to $100M.

Posted on September 14, 2016 .

CRISIS: New report ranks Baton Rouge second most dangerous city to drive, after Detroit

Days after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced an executive order creating a statewide Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment, CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, announced a new study that ranks Baton Rouge the second most dangerous city in the nation for drivers, ranking behind only Detroit.

This latest report follows studies in 2015 that ranked Baton Rouge third worst in the nation for average annual commuter traffic delay among mid-size cities, and eleventh worst in the nation for road conditions.

“Yet another report has independently verified what Baton Rouge area drivers unfortunately already know based on experience, which is that our roads are not only the worst in the state but among the worst in the nation for traffic congestion, road conditions, and now safety for drivers, according to this new study,” said Scott Kirkpatrick, executive director of CRISIS.  “We thank Governor Edwards for establishing a much-needed task force on these issues and look forward to working with the task force to address the uniquely multifaceted challenges facing the Baton Rouge Area.”

Baton Rouge’s second-most dangerous ranking comes according to a new analysis by NerdWallet, a financial education center, which examined the risks for those who drive in nearly 200 of the nation’s most populous cities. Among other factors, NerdWallet looked at car crashes and the number of fatal accidents to determine which cities are the safest and which places are the most dangerous for drivers.

The report’s analysis of Baton Rouge, including its reason for ranking it behind Detroit, included the following:

Baton Rouge recorded 38 fatal crashes in 2014. Though the number is far fewer than Detroit, which had 110 fatal accidents, Baton Rouge’s population is much smaller, which means its rate of 16.6 fatal crashes per 100,000 residents is the highest in our analysis.

For specific criteria, the report ranked the nation’s biggest cities to find a score based on five metrics: the rate of fatal crashes, the likelihood of an accident relative to other cities, the number of years between accidents, the risk of auto larceny, and the risk of having a vehicle stolen.

Posted on June 13, 2016 .

CRISIS releases results of regional transportation analysis

Business-led transportation coalition seeks to forge regional consensus for action

CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today released a report detailing the findings and results of an analysis of major regional transportation infrastructure projects.  Commissioned by CRISIS, the analysis was led by Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) Executive Director Jamie Setze and the CRPC’s transportation planners, in an effort to begin to forge regional consensus based on data-driven solutions.

While transportation infrastructure needs across the state are sizable, the situation in the Capital Region has grown particularly, even uniquely, dire among the state’s metropolitan areas.  Among the nation’s mid-sized cities, the Capital Region ranks 3rd worst in the entire country for traffic congestion, and 11th worst for road conditions.  And although the Baton Rouge region accounts for roughly 18 percent of the state’s total population, its share of the transportation maintenance backlog, at $3.3 billion, represents more than a quarter of the total statewide need, and almost half of the state’s bridge backlog.

For years, even as the congestion and condition of its roads have worsened, the Baton Rouge region has missed out on major infrastructure investments, in part because the region has lacked consensus over its highest priority projects.

Mayor-President Kip Holden, Chairman of the Baton Rouge-area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said, “This report benefits from bringing business and industry to the table to participate in an analysis led by our Metropolitan Planning Organization, so we can jointly promote priority transportation projects needed to get our Capital Region moving. These findings can now be used in our long-range transportation planning process, ongoing throughout 2016, to help rally the Capital Region around a comprehensive plan. We can accomplish so much more when we work together and I applaud these business and industry leaders for promoting regional cooperation.”

State Sen. Rick Ward, representing District 17, said, “This analysis confirms what so many on the west side of the river feel every day - congestion is a considerable issue for those trying to get across the river.  While solutions are not cheap, enhancing and adding bridges will provide a significant return on investment both in terms of money and time saved."

State Rep. Steve Carter, of Baton Rouge, Chairman of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation, said, “The Capital Region Legislative Delegation is eager to make progress on this regional solution.  Our constituents are eager to see the region rally behind a set of projects, find the revenue to fund them and get them built.  The Capital Region has had to wait too long for major transportation projects."

State Rep. Johnny Berthelot, of Ascension Parish, said, “It is great to see elected officials, along with business and industry, come together to put a variety of transportation projects on the table and then work to narrow that list in a cooperative and data-driven manner.  With more and more in the region commuting into and around Baton Rouge for work, we must build the road and bridge projects that allow this to happen in an efficient manner."

“This is really an unprecedented collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in our region that hopefully will spur action based on data-driven solutions,” said Johnny Milazzo, owner of Lard Oil Company in Livingston Parish.

“This study confirms the reality business and industry have been experiencing for years, the infrastructure needs of the Capitol Region are not being met and it is time for immediate action,” said CRISIS co-chair Tom Yura, Senior Vice President and General Manager at BASF. “CRISIS is working collaboratively with our public officials and is offering efficient and cost-effective solutions that will not only resolve our current infrastructure crisis, but begin to address transportation needs we all benefit from as our region grows.”

“Our region has seen great job creation and economic development wins, but we know that future economic growth and job opportunities are threatened without major investments being made, and made soon, in our infrastructure,” added Ann Forte Trappey, President-CEO of Forte and Tablada, and BRAC board chair.

To conduct the analysis, a team of CRISIS representatives, parish presidents or their representatives, legislators, and CRPC staff identified projects with regional significance for analysis, with consideration given to all regional projects in the State Long Range Plan.  Then, 18 major transportation projects were analyzed using a regional transportation model for comparative analysis.  Key metrics used included each project’s projected reduction in regional Vehicle Hours of Travel (VHT), along with “best available” cost estimates done in conjunction with DOTD, to arrive at ratios of “congestion relief for the cost” derived for comparison.

Projects were also compared based on groupings among four different categories, based on whether they were a new Mississippi River crossing, a large regional project, a small regional project, or addressed the region’s “urban core.”

General findings of the analysis concluded that:

  • Multiple projects are needed for regional congestion relief
  • Highest benefit projects involve crossing the Mississippi River (New bridge and increased use of old bridge)
  • Best benefit/cost projects involve improving commute to Ascension Parish and one additional lane in both directions of I-10 through Baton Rouge
  • Tolling can be a part of broader funding strategy – with project tolling revenue projections ranging from 25% to 60% of project cost

Based on the analysis and findings, a recommended Regional Solution would consist of the following project priorities:

I-10 Widening (one lane in both directions) Through Baton Rouge
Cost Range – $350 M

Ascension Commuter Route (I-10 or Airline)
Cost Range: $125 M – $180 M

New River Crossing South of I-10 Bridge (With LA 30 Widening)
Untolled Cost Range: $1.1 B – $1.6 B
Tolled Cost Range: $830 M – $1.3 B

Increase Use of US 190 Bridge (BUMP or North Bypass)
Untolled Cost Range: $775 M – $780 M
Tolled Cost Range: $300 M – $305 M

The full presentation of the analysis report can be found by clicking here.

Posted on February 2, 2016 .

Gubernatorial candidates express support for CRISIS priorities to improve Baton Rouge area transportation infrastructure

CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today released the replies from the campaigns of the two gubernatorial candidates in the run-off, in response to a CRISIS open letter on November 6 requesting responses in writing to four questions about specific plans to address the Capital Region’s infrastructure needs.

Most notably, both candidates expressed unequivocally positive responses to the first question, which asked the candidates whether they support the priorities previously stated in an Election Platform released by CRISIS earlier in the campaign.  Links to the full response letters appear at the end of this release.

“The transportation infrastructure crisis facing the Baton Rouge area is not just a local issue but one of statewide significance, and we are grateful that both gubernatorial candidates acknowledge that reality and express support for priority action steps important for future economic expansion,” said CRISIS executive director Scott Kirkpatrick.  “Throughout this campaign, CRISIS has called on candidates to offer serious and specific solutions to the capital region traffic crisis, and I would urge area voters to read these written responses by the candidates in order to make an informed judgment before voting on Saturday.”

The CRISIS letter to the candidates requested responses to the following questions:

1.  Do you support the 5 priorities outlined in the CRISIS election platform, and will you commit to working to advance them as Governor?  Please elaborate.

2.  Given the complexities raised through closely analyzing the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, what specific steps will you pursue so that your pledge to “restore trust in the trust fund” is not just a soundbite but a clear and detailed solution?

3.  Maximizing Transportation Trust Fund dollars in itself may be insufficient to making serious headway tackling the state’s $12 billion infrastructure backlog.  What is your targeted amount that you would seek to dedicate toward that effort on an annual basis, and what steps will you take during your first year in office to achieve it?

4.  Finally, and most importantly, knowing that even substantial additional resources devoted to addressing the backlog still provide nothing for major new capacity “megaprojects,” what steps will you take during your first year in office to provide desperately needed funding both to expedite improvements along the I-10 corridor and to establish another major thoroughfare through the region and across the Mississippi River?

The full text of the candidates’ responses can be viewed below.

Posted on November 17, 2015 .