- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - East Baton Rouge Parish lawmakers say they will press for funding of an Interstate 10 interchange in south Baton Rouge, faced with a 2017 deadline to begin construction.

Outgoing state Rep. Darrell Ourso, R-Baton Rouge, tells The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1QAR7sN) he sent a letter to incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne this week requesting $36 million for the Pecue Lane exit in the Legislature’s capital spending bill. He said he’ll work with other Baton Rouge-area lawmakers to secure the money, despite Louisiana’s budget deficit.

“It’s still early in our study of the 2016 executive budget and capital outlay, so it would be premature to speak to the merits or funding possibilities of any particular project,” Dardenne said in a statement. “However, we are certainly aware that this project is a critical component of traffic relief on I-10.”

The move came after meeting where officials said that planning work done for the project beginning in 2008 will expire in spring 2017, requiring the work to be redone if construction doesn’t start by then

About $20 million is already reserved for the project to relieve often-congested exits at Highland Road and Seigen Lane.

Baton Rouge officials earlier this year opened a $9.5 million connector allowing motorists to use Pecue Lane to reach Women’s Hospital and major thoroughfares between Coursey Boulevard and Highland Road.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said lawmakers likely won’t decide on money until the final days of the 2016 legislative session.

“Anything’s possible, but as far as keeping the project going forward, I don’t know that it needs $36 million in cash,” Claitor said, noting that it would be easier to give some cash to the interchange now and promise more in the future. “. That’s a large sum, but we’ve seen it placed on projects that don’t have as much support.”

It’s also possible that other sources of funding will open up aside from capital outlay money. Shawn Wilson, newly named secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, said earlier in the week that the department might be able to help as well.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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