Traffic continues to deteriorate along the Mississippi River Bridge in Port Allen, but several high-ranking lawmakers have said they will oppose funding earmarked for a new bridge at least until site selection is complete. completed.

West Baton Rouge and Iberville parish government leaders said they will work with lawmakers and other officials to ensure the 2022-23 state budget includes funding that Gov. John Bel Edwards wishes to devote to the construction of a new bridge over the Mississippi River.

Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot and J. Mitchell Ourso are moving forward on those plans after several high-ranking lawmakers objected to the amount of funding Edwards wanted for the projects.

“That’s what term limits are for — lawmakers trying to get what they want before they leave office,” Berthelot said. “I also spoke with engineering companies working on the project, and told them that they had to get this project going.”

Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, leads the pack among lawmakers who have said they oppose the layoff as it currently stands.

He said he would only support the measure if the state makes its final choice on site selection before the end of the session on June 6.

Ourso said he met with state Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, to ask Schexnayder and other House members not to close the door on the project.

“We need to make sure the $500 million for the bridge goes into the budget before the legislature rejects it,” Ourso said. “Hopefully the site selection will be finalized before the end of the session.”

Governor Edwards, when unveiling his 2022 budget proposals, called the project Louisiana’s greatest infrastructure need.

The $500 million proposal could eventually facilitate safeguards that stretch for miles in all four directions leading to the “new” Mississippi River Bridge, which opened in April 1968.

His proposal highlights a budget with $1.6 billion in higher-than-expected revenue. The state is also on track to receive $1 billion more than the normal allocation of $200 million per year for the next five years. That money will come from the $1 trillion Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

But State Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said he couldn’t justify putting it on the budget when the project could take 20 years to become a reality.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Sam Jenkins of Shreveport believes the state should use the $500 million to replenish the unemployment trust fund.

The funding proposed in this year’s budget may be the only chance to secure such a large amount for the project, Ourso said.

“This is a one-time grant – it’s not recurring revenue,” he said. “And, as the inflation rate continues to climb, it will be harder to secure that money.”

Ourso said he plans to attend the Capital Area Road and Bridge District meeting on Monday, March 28 to lobby for site selection.

He said he remains confident the project will stay within budget.

“I have a feeling this will work out well for Iberville Parish.”

At its December meeting, the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) handed over three sites previously eliminated from the list of places where a new bridge could be built south of the Intracoastal Waterway in Port Allen and the north of the Sunshine Bridge near Donaldsonville. He moved the list from 17 to 20 sites.

“We are about to reduce that number to 10, and it could go down to five,” Berthelot said. “DOTD needs an additional site during environmental studies.”

The talk of another Mississippi bridge has been circulating for more than 30 years, but budget hurdles have kept it from moving beyond discussion.

The rate of inflation would likely increase the price of the project, which will likely increase by at least $200 million, DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson said last month during a speech at the Press Club of Baton Rouge. .

The state allocation is key to getting things done, he said.

“The federal government expects full commitment,” he said.

The DOTD plans to create a connector route from Interstate 10 to redirect traffic to the new bridge, which would create a connection between La. 1 on the west side and La. 30 on the east side.

The connector road itself will play a vital role in the project, Wilson said.

“Building a bridge without a connecting road to I-10 is not the answer,” he said. “You have to get to I-10 from La. 1 and I-10 from La. 30 for it to make sense — and if we’re just building the bridge, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.”

He said it was premature to estimate exactly how much more it would cost, although he expects the price to rise by at least $200 million.