An international engineering firm has submitted a preliminary proposal to the state to build an “inner loop” toll road around Baton Rouge, officials said Thursday morning.

The plan, which faces a lengthy review process and daunting hurdles, is called the Baton Rouge Urban Renewal and Mobility Plan, or BUMP.

It is supposed to connect interstates 10, 12, 110, U.S. 61 and U.S. 190 in a high-speed route around Baton Rouge that would ease daily complaints about traffic gridlock.

The proposal, which was not solicited, was submitted by AECOM, which is the engineering firm based in Los Angeles and has offices in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

It represents a possible public private partnership, which envisions a firm building the roadway, then relying on toll revenue to repay the costs plus a profit.

The loop would extend 23 miles, from Interstate 10 near Pecue Lane in East Baton Rouge Parish, along a revamped Airline Highway and across the U.S. 190 Bridge to a point on I-10 four miles west of the LA 415 interchange in West Baton Rouge Parish.

The Louisiana Transportation Authority, after a brief hearing, voted to allow the state Department of Transportation and Development to hire an expert to review the plan.

The authority oversees possible mega projects for inclusion in state transportation plans.

State Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, and other members of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation touted the plan during the 2014 legislative session as a potential way to ease traffic woes.

They also got money in the state’s capital improvements budget for early planning.

Cost estimates range from $700 million to $1 billion.

In addition, any such undertaking would face a variety of political and other hurdles.

Reluctance to pay tolls and possible resistance to converting Airline Highway into a high-speed, four-lane corridor are among the hurdles.

City-parish government leaders who have touted a full-scale loop for years may also view an “inner loop” as a threat to any chances for their own plans ever becoming reality, however remote that may be.

DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas, a member of the authority, said future studies would shed light on a wide range of issues, including whether big-truck drivers would be willing to pay tolls to get around Baton Rouge.

“That is the first step, we need more data,” LeBas said.

Check back later with The Advocate for more details.

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