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Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp delivers the commencement address, Friday, May 25, 2018 at Spring Commencement exercises for Baton Rouge Community College, which began classes 20 years ago.

We all hate traffic, and we all hate taxes. This completely natural combination can also serve at cross purposes, as addressing East Baton Rouge’s traffic congestion problems will require significant new revenue. We all know it, but sometimes we refuse to accept it. No one seriously challenges the importance and benefits of the projects in the MovEBR plan. What some challenge is the need to actually pay for them.

There are any number of articles written on the plan’s benefits, diving into the data on the millions of traffic hours it will save every year, the connectivity it will create, and the significant amount that will be financed by those living outside of EBR. I won’t spend further time on that. Instead, I’d like to talk about why MovEBR means finally taking responsibility for our own needs.

Our transportation system is falling apart. We have serious road condition problems, our primary commuter routes are in near-perpetual gridlock, and we still haven’t upgraded to the modern traffic management technology that most other major cities have been using for years. We have worse commuter delay than Chicago, and we’ve been getting steadily worse every year. Simply put, our current population can’t function effectively on our current network. It certainly can’t accommodate more growth.

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This is our problem to fix; we need to face that. And there’s no solution that doesn’t include additional investment. The feds aren’t coming to the rescue for Baton Rouge’s traffic problems. Neither is the state. In fact, the state is quickly going to lose its ability to even provide adequate match dollars, losing out on potential federal funds. If a solution to our problem exists, it will come from us.

Some question why MovEBR uses parish dollars on state-owned roads. That misses the point. Commuters on their way to work don’t feel the difference between traffic on a state-owned road versus a parish road, nor does a parent rushing to and from school. If anything, the Broome administration should be commended for taking the initiative to address our transportation system holistically, asking the big question of what problem needs to be solved rather than how narrow their responsibility is. That’s the leadership we should expect from elected officials. We should respond appropriately on Saturday, addressing our problems head-on instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us.

Adam Knapp

president and CEO, Baton Rouge Area Chamber

Baton Rouge