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Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, left, and Fred Raiford, right, director of Transportation and Drainage, answer questions from citizens about Broome's Better Transportation and Roads Plan in a meeting at St. Aloysius Tuesday. The plan calls for a 5-mil tax to fund $540 million for the improvements.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

City-parish leaders are regrouping and considering how to improve roads after the Metro Council rejected a tax proposal by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome earlier this year.

Public works agencies on Monday presented their 2018 budget proposals to the council. The Department of Transportation and Drainage has asked for a "standstill" $13.7 million budget, said director Fred Raiford.

"There's really nothing special about our particular transportation budget," he said.

Much of his department's work will be continuing projects funded under former Mayor-President Kip Holden's Green Light Plan, though the pace has slowed after an early burst made possible by bonding out tax money.

His agency is also fixing bridges using disaster community development block grant money given to the city-parish after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Raiford and Broome had sought a 5-mill property tax to fund new projects, collectively known as the Better Transportation and Roads initiative. Council members declined to put it on the Nov. 18 ballot, saying their constituents were unwilling to pay another millage for the proposed work.

The council members "sent a clear message," Raiford said Monday. However, "traffic is not going away," he remarked.

He is considering how to come back with a more palatable tax proposal. Raiford noted that it may be worth considering how to work with the surrounding parishes to address local roads.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Rowdy Gaudet said that the mayor-president's office has no specific tax plan. Rather, officials recognize that any large-scale traffic project would need financial support, he said. The administration wants to keep talking about holistic infrastructure solutions, including ideas that also address drainage, but there's no particular dollar amount or election date in mind as of yet.

"All options are there. (Traffic) is what people talk to us about continuously," he said.

Raiford also said a future proposal could include funding for drainage projects. The city-parish has commissioned a stormwater master plan from an engineering firm; they expect to begin turning over findings in the first quarter of 2018.

Raiford said the first step will be determining which efforts to prioritize as officials begin applying for federal hazard mitigation funds resulting from the 2016 flood. Those funds require a 25 percent local match. Recently, Raiford has been talking to officials in Baker, Central and Zachary to plan how all the municipalities can pool their resources.

"We're moving in the right direction," he said.

Nevertheless, Raiford said he would like to hold public meetings as well to allow residents to weigh in on any future plans.

Council members thanked the transportation and drainage staff for their work. They also pushed for the swift completion of projects in their own parts of town: For Barbara Freiberg, that includes bike paths in her district southwest of LSU; for Tara Wicker, that means installing sidewalks along 72nd street; for Dwight Hudson, it's a push to perform work on Jones Creek Road between Tiger Bend Road and Jefferson Highway.

Matt Watson sought street lighting in areas of the medical district that aren't located in the incorporated area of the city. Raiford said parish property owners can enter into the consolidated lighting district, which allows members to pay a 2-mill property tax to cover the cost of street lights. He and Watson planned to talk to the parish attorney's office and the local property owners to explore that option.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.