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