Ascension Parish, Iberville Parish agree to study West Bank Connector project
The West Bank Connector has been a long time wish, and to some a myth for the neighboring parishes of Ascension and Iberville. In July, the Ascension Parish council approved an agreement, later followed last week by Iberville’s council to authorize a cooperative endeavor agreement between the two parishes to enact a new bridge study that will cost, in total, approximately $1.7 million.
The neighboring parishes will work together with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development on the report to study the feasibility and advisability of constructing an additional Mississippi River bridge that will open up key areas of South Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish and Iberville Parish.
Ascension Parish Council Chairman Chris Loar said the partnership between the two parishes is well-needed and, “I’m glad we have partnered with Iberville to try to move this project along to the next step.”
Loar said new and improved roads are a key driver of economic development, and he thinks this project would go a long way on that front.
“This would be beneficial from a traffic relief perspective by allowing diversion of traffic off I-10 and cars and truck traffic not having to go through the heart of Baton Rouge, by having another bridge, and by being another hurricane evacuation route,” Loar said.
The route would go from Interstate 10 west of Port Allen to La. 1 south of Plaquemine. The project would also include a new Mississippi River bridge at Plaquemine. As good as the traffic relief, this project would also be of enormous benefit to the entire west side of Ascension in terms of economic development where over 122,000 acres would be in play for industrial and commercial development along that corridor.
“There is perhaps no greater solution for what ails the west bank than growing the economy to revitalize the area and attract new investments, businesses, and people,” Loar said. “A thriving, robust Donaldsonville and west bank is good for Ascension Parish as a whole.”
Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said at the parish’s meeting on Aug. 19, the bridge will “certainly provide a much needed traffic relief.”
Though this is not an immediate fix, it seems to be a step in the right direction.
“We are positioning our parish for a bridge here in the future,” Ourso said. “You are talking something that might be 10 or 15 years off if it materializes.”
In March, the Iberville council approved a resolution allocating the money for the, in total, $1.65 billion project that would begin with a four-lane highway that would swoop south from I-10 west of Port Allen to La. 1 south of Plaquemine, then branch off to cross the Mississippi River on a new bridge near LSU and St. Gabriel. La. 1 would be improved from Plaquemine to Donaldsonville, a section of La. 70 would also be improved and several other area highways would also be widened.
Iberville Parish is offering up $175,000 to match state funds approved during the last legislative session to pay an engineering firm to research a proposal to construct the West Bank Connector, a proposed four-lane highway between Interstate 10 near Port Allen and Interstate 310 just west of New Orleans.
The study will also take a hard look at building a bridge over the Mississippi River to connect La. 1 and La. 30, most likely in Iberville Parish.
Ascension Parish is putting up $125,000 and Iberville’s share is more because a new bridge would likely be located in that parish.
SJB Group, a Baton Rouge engineering firm, will conduct the study.