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Traffic begins to stall on southbound Interstate 110 just before the Mississippi River Bridge at the Interstate 10/ Interstate 110 split, Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

While issues at the State Capitol can sometimes be divisive, everyone across the region agrees that traffic is a serious problem.

Because traffic is a quality-of-life issue for drivers that also significantly impacts regional and national commerce, the Capital Region Legislative Delegation chose to support funding for a new Mississippi River bridge as its top priority during the recent legislative session. Our membership from the nine-parish region worked alongside Secretary Shawn Wilson of the Department of Transportation and Development, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, and our partners the Capital Area Road and Bridge District (CARBD) and the CRISIS Coalition to obtain $5 million in funding to begin the environmental phase of this project.

This initial funding is only a starting point when it comes to the total costs associated with a new bridge, but it marks an important first step. Before construction can begin, the bridge location must be selected, and the necessary environmental approvals must be secured.

Those involved in the project are not wasting any time. At their June 17 meeting, members of the CARBD voted to approve issuance of a request for qualifications to bring on a project team to handle the enhanced planning and environmental evaluation phase of the project. Resulting environmental impact data, public input and other relevant information will be used to select a final site for the new bridge. This work is expected to begin in early 2020.

While this work moves forward, long-term funding options are being explored for the actual construction of the bridge, including public/private financing partnerships, tolls, and federal funds. A project this significant will likely require a combination of these.

We would like to thank everyone involved in this collaborative effort to move forward with this critical infrastructure project that will provide congestion relief to the Capital Region and particularly to over one hundred thousand drivers per day who utilize the I-10 Mississippi River Bridge. We also encourage everyone interested in following the progress of the new bridge to visit the CARBD website at capitalareabridge.org.

State Rep. Steve Carter

chairman, Capital Region Legislative Delegation

Baton Rouge

Editor's Note: This letter is signed by 27 members of the Baton Rouge legislative delegation.