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 .

CRISIS sends gubernatorial candidates open letter, continuing to press candidates on transportation specifics

Baton Rouge, La. — CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today sent the following open letter to the two gubernatorial campaigns of the candidates in the run-off, requesting responses in writing on questions regarding specific plans to address the Capital Region’s infrastructure needs:

OPEN LETTER TO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES

To: Rep. John Bel Edwards; U.S. Sen. David Vitter

From: Scott Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, CRISIS

Date: November 6, 2015

Subject: Request for specific plans for how you, as Governor, will address the Baton Rouge area’s traffic crisis                                                                                                                                                             

On behalf of Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS), let me begin by congratulating you on achieving the run-off election to become Louisiana’s next Governor.  Both the challenges and opportunities facing Louisiana over the next four years are significant, requiring strong and smart leadership at the state level, and we thank you for your willingness to serve.

For the Baton Rouge area, that holds true perhaps most pressingly on the issue of transportation infrastructure.  While the needs across the state are certainly sizable, the situation in the Capital Region has grown particularly, even uniquely, dire among the state’s metropolitan areas.  As we have previously noted in our Election Platform, among 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.

In a sense, the Baton Rouge area is at a crossroads.  On the one hand, the region is experiencing historic levels of economic momentum, and has consistently led the state in job growth.  On the other hand, area businesses continue to cite transportation as an increasing concern, pointing to traffic congestion as a top obstacle for future growth.  For many, when it comes to the ability to transport people and products across the region, the situation is becoming untenable.  In short, we are reaching a tipping point, with urgent need for action.  Our transportation system should be a way to provide people easy access to their jobs, not a barrier that puts greater job opportunities at risk.

Given the seriousness of what’s at stake, throughout the gubernatorial race to date we have been pleased by the amount of attention candidates have given to the transportation issue in general, but disappointed by the lack of specificity in offering clear and comprehensive solutions.  For example, while candidates have pledged to “restore trust in the transportation trust fund,” an analysis of the issue also points to the complexities of that fund and questions what steps you, as Governor, will take to fulfill that pledge.

Therefore, for the sake of Baton Rouge area residents having as much detail as possible to cast an informed ballot, we are seeking your response to the following questions, in writing, with the request that you respond no later than Friday, November 13th.

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?

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these matters and for your responses.  The members of CRISIS stand ready and willing to work with you and the Legislature to advance solutions that help make possible the future prosperity of the Baton Rouge area.

Posted on November 6, 2015 .

CRISIS urges voters to cast ballot in support of Constitutional amendments 1 & 2

CRISIS announced today its endorsement of proposed Constitutional Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, and urged Baton Rouge area voters to vote “yes” on the amendments on election day.

As CRISIS has previously noted in its 2015 election platform, among mid-sized cities, Baton Rouge ranks 3rd worst in the country for traffic congestion, and 11th worst for road conditions.  More important than the rankings are the costs, in both time and money, which these conditions exact on the region’s citizens: more than 45 hours, or a full work week, stuck in traffic per year at a cost of more than $1,200 for the average commuter, plus more than $700 per year from vehicle maintenance and repairs.

Louisiana has a backlog of road and bridge maintenance needs surpassing $12 billion.  Although the Baton Rouge region includes roughly 18 percent of the total state population, its share of the overall backlog, at $3.3 billion, represents more than a quarter of the total statewide need, and almost half of the state bridge backlog. In calling for the development of a comprehensive mobility plan to address these regional challenges, CRISIS also acknowledged that funding its components will require multiple strategies.

“From their frustrations with our congested and crumbling roadways, Baton Rouge area citizens have already succeeded in making the region’s traffic and infrastructure needs a statewide issue in upcoming elections, demanding specific solutions from candidates.  But this is a chance for area voters to be part of the solution themselves,” said Cordell Haymon, Senior Vice President of SGS Petroleum Service Corporation, and CRISIS leadership member.  “These amendments will help provide two important tools, without raising taxes, within a larger toolbox of funding solutions necessary to start making progress on important projects for the region.”

Constitutional Amendment No.1 would devote a portion of oil and gas revenues already collected by the state toward transportation construction and maintenance projects, while safeguarding the state’s Budget Stabilization or “Rainy Day” Fund and improving its usability during times of state budget deficits.  Amendment No. 2 would authorize investment in a state infrastructure bank, recently created by the legislature, to be used solely for transportation projects.

At a featured speaking event in Baton Rouge in September, national transportation expert Robert Puentes, Director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, lauded the effectiveness of transportation infrastructure banks in other states, and based on research, has written that state infrastructure banks “can be valuable tools for delivering infrastructure projects and can generate more investment per dollar than traditional federal and state grant programs.”

Additional background: The Public Affairs Research Council, citing the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), estimates that the state would need to invest an additional $650 million per year to begin to make meaningful progress addressing these statewide needs over the next thirty years.  But even that amount would devote little toward investing in major, new capacity projects.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

CRISIS releases fall election platform with five priorities for addressing regional transportation challenges

Baton Rouge, La. — CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today issued a fall election platform emphasizing the need for regional cooperation and serious, specific transportation funding solutions.

Titled “Capital Region at a Crossroads,” the platform document is directed at gubernatorial and area legislative candidates and spells out five key priorities for moving the region forward on a major issue impacting quality of life and economic growth.

Capital Region at a crossroads: CRISIS Prioritizes Regional Cooperation, Funding Solutions for Transportation Infrastructure in Fall Election Campaign

With legislative and gubernatorial elections this fall, the Baton Rouge region is at a crossroads.  On the one hand, the region in recent years has enjoyed strong economic momentum, game-changing business attraction and expansion wins, and job growth to surpass historic milestones, with more people working than ever before.

On the other hand, area businesses continue to cite transportation as an increasing concern, pointing to traffic congestion as a top obstacle for future growth.  Attracting new businesses becomes that much harder, while existing businesses struggle to push forward on expansions, and employers find it difficult to recruit talent and provide easy access for their goods and services to customers.  Employees are leaving jobs because of unreasonable, unsafe, and unpredictable commutes, while their productivity in delivering goods and services suffers because of gridlock.

Among mid-sized cities, the Capital Region ranks 3rd worst in the country for traffic congestion, and 11th worst for road conditions.  More important than the rankings are the costs, in both time and money, which these conditions exact on the region’s citizens: more than 45 hours, or a full work week, stuck in traffic per year at a cost of more than $1,200 for the average commuter, plus more than $700 per year from vehicle maintenance and repairs.  Our transportation system should be a way to provide people easy access to their jobs and sources of income, not a barrier that saps their income and puts greater job opportunities at risk.

These problems did not spring up overnight, and it is unrealistic to think that they will be solved overnight.  But whether it’s a small business owner considering opening a new location, a large business developing growth strategies, or a young family worried about the quality of life in their neighborhood – people are clamoring, at the very least, for action that will lead to clear solutions, and a comprehensive plan with a workable implementation strategy.  It would provide something they can point to as a reason for hope and a foundation for their own future plans.

Accomplishing that will take cooperation and collaboration across the region.  For years the Baton Rouge region has watched as other areas of the state have received comparably much greater infrastructure investments, particularly toward their consensus highest priority projects.  But conceivably, that has occurred precisely because they had such a consensus, while the Baton Rouge region has not.

Which brings us back to the crossroads.  One path, which is currently congested and crumbing, will only become worse, more expensive to fix over time, and a threat to future economic growth, if the status quo approach continues.  We believe, however, that the upcoming elections represent a tremendous opportunity to choose a new path, one that offers traffic relief and resiliency, and paves the way to greater regional prosperity.  Our message to candidates in the gubernatorial and area legislative races, then, is simple: Make the Baton Rouge region’s traffic crisis a top priority of your campaign, work cooperatively in support of a comprehensive regional mobility plan, and offer serious and specific funding solutions to implement it.

Assessing the Need

Louisiana has a backlog of road and bridge maintenance needs surpassing $12 billion.  Although the Baton Rouge region includes roughly 18 percent of the total state population, its share of the overall backlog, at $3.3 billion, represents more than a quarter of the total statewide need, and almost half of the state’s bridge backlog.  The Public Affairs Research Council, citing the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), estimates that the state would need to invest an additional $650 million per year to begin to make meaningful progress addressing these statewide needs over the next thirty years.  But even that amount would devote little toward investing in major, new capacity projects.  For those needs, based on DOTD’s most recent version of its long-range plan, Baton Rouge region “megaprojects” in the top two priority categories alone would require state investment of almost $1.3 billion.

To date, candidates have expressed a commitment to “restore trust” in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), based on budgetary actions in recent years that redirected upwards of $100 million annually that should have been devoted to transportation infrastructure toward other general government operations, primarily state police. That commitment is commendable. However, during the recent legislative session, laws have already been put into place to phase out state police funding from the TTF and to provide for them an alternative funding source via increased vehicle title fees.

While a great start, these steps do not come close to closing the gap. Making meaningful headway on Capital Region infrastructure solutions will clearly require significantly greater levels of investment in the years ahead.

Election Priorities

The effectiveness of these investments — and, as history has shown, people’s willingness to support them — is directly tied to a clear assurance that they will be used as intended, toward clearly identified projects, with clear and quantifiable results.

The message to candidates is simple: Make the Baton Rouge region's traffic crisis a top priority of your campaign, work cooperatively in support of a comprehensive regional mobility plan, and offer serious and specific funding solutions to implement it.

With that in mind, CRISIS stands ready to work in partnership on these efforts, and is emphasizing the following priorities for gubernatorial and legislative candidates seeking election this fall:

Work cooperatively toward the creation of a comprehensive regional mobility plan

In order for the region to receive equitable infrastructure investment commensurate with its needs, the new Governor and the Capital Area legislative delegation must work cooperatively with local and regional officials to form a consensus plan which identifies regionally significant projects through a data-driven analysis determining greatest mobility improvement for the dollar.

Support multimodal strategies that give citizens greater transportation options

The region’s congestion problems are not limited to major thoroughfares but impact surface streets as well. A long-term plan must also include strategies that increase transportation options, including improved street connectivity and multimodal alternatives to automobile travel.

Push accelerated action to improve the “I-10 bottleneck”

Louisiana economist Dr. Loren Scott has characterized the corridor between LA 415, the Mississippi River Bridge, and the split as I-10’s biggest bottleneck in the country.  Congestion near the bridge impacts citizens and businesses across the state and region and will require state and regional support to address it. DOTD is currently conducting a major corridor improvement study – both the study and the construction schedule should be accelerated for completion in the next four years.

Deliver an additional major alternative route through the region

As DOTD points out, improving I-10 will provide meaningful traffic relief, but it alone cannot fix the overall congestion problem. For decades, a number of alternative routes have been proposed and studied. Again, using data-driven analysis, state and regional leaders must form consensus and deliver funding toward the best and most feasible solution for congestion relief within the next four years.

Develop comprehensive, fiscally responsible funding strategy to implement the regional plan

Just as a regional mobility plan requires a comprehensive approach, funding its components will require multiple strategies — including, if necessary, increased gas, sales, or severance taxes dedicated to specific projects — to achieve a level of investment sufficient to meet the region’s backlog and capacity needs, improve safety and quality of life, and sustain economic growth.

 

Posted on August 31, 2015 .

CRISIS: New mobility report shows Baton Rouge area traffic problems persist, commuter delays and costs getting worse

Baton Rouge, La. — A new national report ranking Baton Rouge the third worst in the country among mid-sized cities for the impact of traffic congestion on commuters points to the need for serious and specific transportation infrastructure solutions, according to CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements.

The newly released Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI) “2015 Annual Urban Mobility Scorecard” lists Baton Rouge third worst for “moderate average” sized urban areas in the category of average commuter annual traffic delay, at 47 hours per year. The Baton Rouge area also ranks second worst among mid-sized cities for the amount of annual excess fuel consumed per commuter (25 gallons), and number one on the list for the amount of money congestion is costing the average commuter per year, at $1,262. Baton Rouge also ranks third worst for cities its size both for freeway travel reliability, and for total truck congestion costs per year, at $189 million.

“This report provides hard data confirming what most regional business leaders and workers already feel intuitively, which is that traffic congestion is taking an increasing toll on company bottom lines and family bank accounts,” said Hugh Raetzsch, President and CEO of Lyons Specialty Company of Port Allen, and CRISIS Vice Chair.  “The cost of commuting and transporting goods and services continues to rise, impacting our region’s quality of life and economic expansion.  This report only underscores our region’s urgent need for serious and specific transportation infrastructure solutions.  The time for action is now.”

Based on CRISIS analysis of TTI historical data, for the ten-year period between 2004 and 2014, annual congestion-related costs for the average commuter in the Baton Rouge area have gone from $862 to $1,262 per year, an increase of $400.  Over the same time period, Baton Rouge area commuters have almost doubled their excess fuel consumption, from 13 to 25 gallons per year, and added another 13 hours per year stuck in traffic delays, a 38 percent increase from 2004 levels.

About CRISIS
Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, or CRISIS, is a regionally balanced, business-led coalition that seeks to provide a leadership voice to address the Baton Rouge area’s transportation crisis, identifying solutions and advocating for their prioritization and funding.  For more information, visit www.trafficcrisis.com.

 

Posted on August 26, 2015 .