The price tag to build a four-lane thoroughfare to alleviate some of the traffic woes in West Baton Rouge Parish may be a little too steep, but Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot says there is now enough money in the parish coffers to create connections between some of the parish’s less-traveled back streets.
And that might give locals some travel relief, he says.
“We’ve got some areas … that need connectivity to other subdivisions that will help people get around without having to go through La. 1,” he said Monday. “We’re trying to put a better traffic grid in place for residents so they won’t have to deal with all the traffic back-ups.”
These routes are part of the parish’s more than $20 million, 5-year road program, which was included in the 2016 budget.
The parish has the finances thanks to a healthy surplus in sales tax revenue generated over the past few years.
“For the last two years, I know, we’ve been at least $1 (million) to $2 million over what we projected,” said Phillip Bourgoyne, West Baton Rouge’s finance director. “We want to use about $7 million of it next year.”
Between 2012 and 2015, the parish government received approximately $24.8 million in sales tax revenue.
The road program includes 70 projects with staggered construction timelines.
The plan is to spend $4.5 million on road work in 2017, another $3.1 million in 2018, $4.7 million in 2019 and $1.4 million in 2020.
According to the 2016 budget, the road projects will not only bring more connectivity to some of the parish’s suburbs but also infrastructure upgrades officials hope might attract big-box commercial development.
“If we’re going to move the parish forward, these projects will be needed,” Council President Gary “Sprout” Spillman said before the council’s budget vote last week. “I definitely want to sit down with the Chamber of Commerce and point out the things they need to start helping us with in the terms of attracting more retail.”
The parish will spend about $1 million next year making those infrastructure upgrades along the sliver of Court Street west of La. 415 in Port Allen. The street currently dead ends on about 125 acres of undeveloped land.
Infrastructure upgrades to Webster Lane, located off La. 415 just south of Rosedale Road, are also included in the Court Street project.
“We want to have them shovel ready,” Bourgoyne explained. “If anyone says they want to develop, we can tell them we’ve already made the improvements to support a big-box store like Lowe’s or something.”
The parish has set aside another $1.6 million to connect Choctaw Road in Brusly to Sidney Richardson Road in Addis.
Another $1.8 million will be spent in 2016 to create a connection between Choctaw Road and Ed Lejuene, also in Addis.
Those two projects will create alternative routes west of La. 1.
The parish will spend another $220,000 next year to build a connector road from Airline Park to Poydras Bayou in Erwinville and about $200,000 to extend North Westport Drive in Port Allen.
And more than $1.7 million has been earmarked for overlaying and for bridge repairs throughout the parish in 2016.
Berthelot knows the series of connector routes won’t have the effect on local traffic his proposed four-lane toll road connecting La. 1 to La. 415 would, but he’s hopeful these “back routes” will at least give residents some options to bypass the daily traffic snarls while the state mulls over how it can pay for traffic projects throughout the Baton Rouge region.
“That project is a little too big for us to handle alone,” Berthelot said about the La. 1/415 Connector Route. “We’re going to wait for the new governor to come in and see how he’s going to attack some of these traffic issues. Hopefully we can get some funds to help us out.”
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