UPDATED: 4:30 p.m.
Following a two hour hearing Tuesday, the Louisiana Transportation Authority rejected an $800 million “inner loop” around Baton Rouge.
The panel can reject the plan, give its OK to move the proposal to the next step or seek more time to review it.
“They are not deciding yes or no on the project,” said Jeff Burst, project management director for the state Department of Transportation and Development.
“What they are doing is (asking), ‘Do we have enough information that it seems reasonably feasible to move to the next phase?’” Burst said.
If that happens, the LTA would advertise for competing proposals.
The idea was submitted by AECOM, a worldwide, Fortune 500 engineering firm that has offices in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
It is called the Baton Rouge Urban Renewal and Mobility Plan, or BUMP.
The proposal would link Interstates 10, 12 and 110 and U.S. 61 and U.S. 190 in a high-speed route around the city.
It would extend 23 miles from I-10 near Pecue Lane in East Baton Rouge Parish, follow an overhauled Airline Highway and proceed across the U.S. 190 bridge to a point on I-10 about 4 miles west of the La. 415 interchange in West Baton Rouge Parish.
The massive project envisions redoing Airline Highway to include a four-lane freeway with tolls and speeds of up to 70 mph.
The other Airline route would mirror the current road, include traffic signals and have speed limits of 40 mph.
The unsolicited proposal has sparked interest among Baton Rouge-area lawmakers, and they got about $1 million added to the state’s capital improvements budget in 2014 for early planning.
However, the plan faces huge political, financial and logistical hurdles, and has gotten little attention beyond a small band of supporters.
The authority is studying the idea just four days before the Saturday primary, and Baton Rouge traffic and possible solutions have been a recurring topic in legislative and other contests, including the race for governor.
BUMP is called a public-private partnership.
That means a private firm — in this case AECOM or another company — would build the road and then contract with the state to recoup its costs, plus a profit.
The LTA has nine members, including DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas; Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego; a designee for House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles; Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton; and House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part.
DOTD officials will not make any recommendations.
Instead, an economic feasibility study will be outlined by officials of HNTB Corp., a national consulting firm that was hired by DOTD officials to do the review.
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