- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - An engineer is making a pitch these days to officials in suburban Baton Rouge parishes: He’s seeking to jump-start a highway project in anticipation of the state someday building a new Mississippi River bridge between Baton Rouge and Donaldsonville.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1Rcx9n9) that the project Wilfred Barry is talking about involves widening Louisiana Highway 30 from two to four lanes at an estimated cost of $225 million.

Barry, president of Baton Rouge engineering firm SJB Group, says modeling shows Highway 30’s role as a commuter corridor will only intensify with further congestion on Interstate 10 — and with the strong likelihood that a new Mississippi River bridge eventually will tie into it.

Barry hasn’t won over everyone with the pocketbooks necessary to do the preliminary work he is pushing.

And his push comes as a new governor is coming to power - and facing budget shortfalls and a $12 billion roadwork backlog.

Tracking the east side of the Mississippi through and south of Baton Rouge, but a bit removed from the river’s edge, two-lane Highway 30 already is a major business and commuter corridor.

Barry, president of Baton Rouge engineering firm SJB Group, says modeling shows Highway 30’s role as a commuter corridor will only intensify with further congestion on Interstate 10 and the strong likelihood that a new Mississippi River bridge will tie into it.

Barry acknowledged recently that he is working for Ascension and Iberville parishes to study and push the viability of an Iberville Parish river crossing, which has been eliminated from the ongoing Baton Rouge Loop project due to lack of traffic demand. The loop has been discussed for nearly a decade as an interstate-style highway ringing the Baton Rouge area with as many as two new crossings of the Mississippi River. Officials with Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes have sparred over where the southern bridge crossing should be.

Barry says he is pushing the Highway 30 project out of his own personal belief that whatever southern river crossing ends up happening - in Iberville or West Baton Rouge - the project will need an improved Highway 30 to handle the traffic load.

“Any bridge anywhere on the river will land on La. 30,” he told an Ascension Parish Council road panel in early December.

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

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