DONALDSONVILLE,LA (NBC33) — A proposed "West Bank Connector" project could help cut down on traffic from West Baton Rouge all the way to St. Charles Parish.
"We've been asking all our politicians for years to make that four lane because the flow of traffic would be a lot easier on everyone," Billy Guillot, business owner in the proposed connector area, explained.
The four part plan would connect West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension, St. James, St. Charles, and St. John the Baptist parishes.
The project designed by SJB Group, a Baton Rouge company, would improve Highways 1, 70, 3127, as well as, look at add a new bridge in Iberville Parish.
Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, explained he's working with other state lawmakers to keep the connector project a top priority this legislative session. They're looking at pushing two part of the project. First improvements along La 1 from Port Allen South to Plaquemine. Second, making La 3127 a four lane highway from the Donaldsonville area to St. Charles Parish.
Brown says fixing La 3127 is the most "doable" piece of the project because the state wouldn't have to purchase any more land. The area is ready to be developed, and the cost is minimal.
The idea is to make it easier to travel across the area. Plus it would make evacuations safer.
Business owners in Donaldsonville say the connector could help attract more business to the area and cut back on traffic.
Billy Guillot owns 'First and Last Chance Cafe' in downtown Donaldsonville. He says driving from there to New Orleans or Baton Rouge can be brutal.
"The jobs they have coming with the local plants over here the two lane highway just can't handle it," Guillot said.
He says something needs to be done to help cut down the commute: "We definitely could use it over here to make things safer for everyone. "
That's where the proposed west bank connector plan comes in- It calls for more lanes along La 3127 and improvements to other surrounding highways.
Guillot believes the plan could help: "more flow of traffic on this side of the river. More business along the side of the road, major highway. It would help the economy tremendously possibly open up some land."
Steven Schneider owns Grapevine café and Gallery in Donaldsonville. He said right now it's hard to get new businesses to come to the area, because there's no easy way to get to the interstate.
"They want the trucks, the track rail, and the water, or that sort of combination. So, we just need roads, and I think that will be great," Schneider stated.
Schneider described the connector could fix the problem eventually.
"Ok this is going to happen in five years or ten years," Schneider explained. "Now is the time to get in on the ground floor, so business investment opportunities are there right now. "
Guillot is concerned. He has heard plans like the connector before, so he's not getting his hopes up.
"They've been asking for this for years on this side of the river. The last 30,40 years they've been asking for it to come here. It's not going to happen. We're lucky we have the sunshine bridge," Guillot exclaimed. "Never going to happen."
The entire connector project could cost over $1.656 billion to complete. The project would be funded through a combination of tolls, the closure of ferries, state and federal money.
Several parishes have come forward in support of the plan.
Edward Songy, Chief Administrative Officer for Iberville Parish, stated the parish council approved a plan to support the connector project. The council set aside $150,00 dollars for the project.
Lester Kenyon, Ascension Parish spokesman, said the Ascension Parish Council passed a resolution to support the project. They did not set aside any money.
Attached are a copy of the detailed proposal for the connector project provided by SJB Group.
|WB Connector Pres Feb 7 2013.pdf ||1.58 MB|
|West Bank Connector SOW Cost Imp Plan and EIS Jan 21 2013.pdf ||351.75 KB|
|WHY THE WEST BANK CONNECTOR Feb 26 2013.pdf ||488.24 KB|