Construction will soon begin to extend the popular 15-foot-wide Mississippi Levee bike path along River Road.

Currently the bike path and walking trail runs from downtown Baton Rouge to Farr Park.

But last week, the Baton Rouge Metro Council accepted construction bids for another 1.2 mile phase from Ben Hur Road to L’Auberge Casino.

The construction bid was for $443,117 and work will be done by R.J. Daigle and Sons Contractor. The city-parish has a Federal Community Block Grant to cover these costs.

Deputy Public Works Director Bryan Harmon said construction will begin in the next few weeks.

The last phase will be the 6.6 miles that connect Farr Park to Ben Hur Road, which will be bid next year, “if not sooner,” Harmon said.

Beaux Jones, board chair of Bike Baton Rouge, said the extension of the levee is “one of the major components to Baton Rouge’s less-motorized future.”

“The levee path already serves as a non-motorized superhighway from campus to downtown and from the Brightside area to both places,” he said. “With a little bit of planning and investment in the infrastructure around Gardere and Brightside, the extension could serve as a catalyst for solving many of the transportation and traffic issues south of the campus.”

Jones said the move also encourages other parishes like Iberville, Ascension, St. John and St. James to invest in trails along the Mississippi River, noting that Orleans and Jefferson parishes have already paved their portions.

“The levee’s main purpose is obviously public safety, but by installing the public access paths on top of it, we are telling our communities that not only do we want to keep them dry, but we want them to have the opportunity to get outside, get healthy and take in the beauty of the Mississippi River,” Jones said.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz/