Baton Rouge-area business groups have teamed up to form a coalition to address regional transportation needs.
Scott Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, said the time is right to address issues such as the backlog of transportation maintenance in metro Baton Rouge and the traffic congestion that exists on local roads.
“The next 18 months we’re going to have an intense election cycle, with the gubernatorial and legislative races, as well as some key local elections,” Kirkpatrick said. “So with this future leadership, we’re at a point where we can help make transportation changes occur very quickly.”
CRISIS is made up of leaders from the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Center for Planning Excellence, as well as representatives from 16 major local employers, such as Cajun Industries, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and Lamar Advertising.
“All of these businesses are feeling some of the negative effects of traffic challenges,” Kirkpatrick said. Those effects will only get worse as the area is projected to add tens of thousands of more jobs in the next few years.
The goal is to address transportation issues in the short and long term, including finding funding solutions and implementing the recommendations from the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which include setting transportation priorities based on traffic data.
John Pacillo, GBRIA board chairman and operations director of Mexichem Fluor Inc. in St. Gabriel, said business and industry groups need to work together to address traffic issues because substantial solutions are not happening.
“GBRIA members have been struggling with the effects of traffic congestion. Employees have left member companies because of extensive and unpredictable commutes. Too many truck driver service hours are being consumed just getting in and out of the plants,” Pacillo said. “People do not see a plan forward to make improvements, and it impacts job satisfaction and quality of life.”
Ann Forte Trappey, president and CEO of Forte and Tablada and a BRAC board member, said local businesses have repeatedly said traffic is the biggest issue facing Baton Rouge.
“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,” Trappey said.
Cordell Haymon, senior vice president of SGS Petroleum Service Corp. and CPEX board chairman, said he’s encouraged that business and industry agree on using robust cost-benefit analysis to prioritize infrastructure investment so it can have the most impact on the largest number of people.
“CRISIS is responding to the need for a united leadership voice advocating for a comprehensive, regional approach to improving our transportation network that is driven by data — not politics,” he said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.