PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish has launched an interactive website leaders hope will strength their efforts to convince federal and state officials that any new Mississippi River bridge to address the region's growing traffic needs happens in their parish.
And, as a bonus, the site gives real-time traffic information to online visitors.
Members of the Iberville Parish Council on Tuesday night were given their first glimpse at the new website from Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso's administration.
"The site is about getting information out and how to get the public involved so we can stay in the eye of the 'powers that be' so Iberville stays in play for a bridge," the parish's finance director, Randall Dunn, told council members at the meeting. "Unless someone makes it a priority on the federal level, it's never going to happen."
Dunn said the idea for the website was pitched by Ourso, who believes it's the best way to give the public a visual snapshot of the issue.
"I just had a dream that we need to get our name out here for this bridge," Ourso said later in the meeting. "We want to be able to control our own destiny."
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A few months ago, Ourso revealed he hired consultants with the TJC Group to lobby state leaders on Iberville's behalf regarding the proposed bridge. It was a move that received sharp criticism from elected officials in neighboring West Baton Rouge Parish who are convinced their parish is a more logical choice for any new bridge.
West Baton Rouge Parish officials want the decision over where to build a new bridge to be guided by data proving it would ease the growing traffic congestion along La. 1 on the west side of the Mississippi River and not because Ourso may have the political advantage.
But in March, an engineering firm hired by Ourso presented data to parish leaders claiming that two proposed bridge locations in Iberville would decrease traffic by more than 30 percent along the La. 1 corridor between Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes and divert nearly 10 percent of the vehicles using the Interstate 10 bridge every day.
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Ourso's first choice is to have the new bridge located near Bayou Goula off La. 405. A bridge at that site would cross over into east Iberville near St. Gabriel, connecting the parish's east and west banks.
The second proposed Iberville location is near the Dow Chemical plant off La. 1148 in Plaquemine. That hypothetical bridge would cross the Mississippi onto the La. 991/River Road corridor.
The Iberville Mississippi River Bridge website (www.ibervillebridge.com) includes a one-minute video explaining the scope of the region's traffic issues and how having a new bridge built in the parish would alleviate those problems.
The site also includes contact information for state and federal legislators, a comprehensive timeline tracking the parish's efforts thus far in addressing the region's traffic woes, and economic impacts on a bridge.
There is also a tab that will give visitors real-time traffic map and information through live streaming feeds from six cameras the parish installed near the ferries in Plaquemine and St. Gabriel as well as along La. 1 at the Intracoastal bridge in Port Allen.
"The traffic cameras are probably the thing that will have the most impact on this page," Dunn said. "So, now, before you leave your house, you'll be able to see what the traffic looks like."
Dunn said the parish is also working on an app the public can download to their cellphones to view the traffic cameras footage as well.
The parish spent approximately $25,000 on establishing the website, Dunn said.
The website received rave reviews from council members Tuesday night.
Council Chairman Matt Jewell said, "I told someone Iberville Parish would be coming out the beginning of the year like a bucking horse. Y'all have done a wonderful job."