Are daily traffic backups near the Mississippi River bridge really the worst in America?
Not so, says the trucking industry.
Actually delays at Interstate 10/110, where eastbound traffic leaves the bridge, are the 19th worst in the U.S., according to a survey released Tuesday by the American Transportation Research Institute.
That makes bridge congestion in Baton Rouge worse than other tie-ups in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia and other much bigger cities.
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The site is listed one behind another bottleneck in Detroit and one ahead of still another in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Asked about the report, Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said Tuesday he regularly hears complaints from the trucking industry about the corridor.
Wilson said officials of petrochemical plants along the river "look at Louisiana and say they can't necessarily get their products to and from efficiently nor could they move their employees."
"Why would they want to expand?" he asked.
Baton Rouge is the lone city in Louisiana on the list.
Texas finished with 13 of the worst bottlenecks, most in the nation.
Traffic on and near the bridge is a longtime source of frustration for motorists on both sides of the river.
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A $350 million plan to widen I-10 from the bridge to the I-10/12 split is in the works.
But it will likely will take at least seven years to finish and is about a year away from starting.
Last week a seven-member panel set up to find ways to finance a new bridge across the Mississippi River held its first meeting.
However, it will take at least $1 billion to become reality, and the latest effort also faces a host of political questions on where it would be located and other prickly topics.
The ranking is hardly unexpected for chamber officials.
"It's sadly not surprising that the Baton Rouge I-10/110 junction just east of the "new" Mississippi River bridge made the list of the Top 20 trucking bottlenecks in the country," Liz Smith, senior vice president for economic competitiveness for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said in a statement.
Smith said the ranking points up the need to widen I-10 from the bridge to the split and for Baton Rouge leaders to aggressively pursue a new bridge south of the current one.
The survey reviewed truck-related congestion at 300 locations on interstates.
In a study that surfaced Monday, Baton Rouge ranks as the second most dangerous city in the nation for drivers.
The results are based on truck GPS data from nearly 1 million heavy-duty trucks, according to the group.
The average truck speed leaving the bridge is 37.1 mph, the report says.
At peak travel times it is 28.9 mph.
Wilson said he has talked about the backups with the president of Dow Chemical, which has a 3,000-acre plant near Plaquemine.
"He said to me it is going to be very difficult for the Baton Rouge facility to compete for an expansion, within the Dow company, with all their other locations," he said.
"They find room for expansion where it is most suited," Wilson said.
The top 10 sites for bottlenecks include locations in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston and Cincinnati.
Regular traffic jams at the intersection of I-95 and a state road in Fort Lee, N.J. tops the list.