IBERVILLE PARISH, La. (BRPROUD) – The Baton Rouge metro area is getting closer to a new $1.5 billion Mississippi River Bridge. The Capital Area Road and Bridge District hosted their quarterly meeting to give updates and hear public concerns. 

“Three bridge alternatives are not equal. One of them is really, really going to impact the wildlife and the environment,” said Iberville Parish resident, Laura Comeaux. 

Comeaux came to the meeting to emphasize concern over her family’s 60-acre land that could be impacted by a location option for the new Mississippi River Bridge. 

The family’s cypress forest has been registered by the Old Growth Forest Network, Louisiana Purchase, Cypress Legacy, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Wildlife Diversity Division. 

Comeaux also said that this summer, the forest was analyzed by the LSU research scientists in the Department of Environmental Sciences, showcasing another reason as to why it needs to be preserved. 

“We’ve had the LSU Environmental Sciences Department come and do three field studies on our property just to determine that they are actually finding a regenerating forest,” she said. “We did find seedlings and saplings to determine that we are growing and that it would be a terrible thing to cut this forest down because it’s so rare. A lot of the forests in Louisiana, cypress forests, are dead,” said Comeaux.

All three of the possible locations are in Iberville Parish with connections on the west side of the river south of Plaquemine, and on the east side of the river in St. Gabriel, according to DOTD

Secretary of Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Eric Kalivoda, said there’s a process when it comes to environment findings, especially when narrowing it down to the final location of the new bridge. 

“We want to hear what people have to say. We also have to go out in the field and verify those things. We do archeological surveys,” he said. “Then we’re looking at the wetlands and other environmental natural environmental impacts that, you know, potentially affect these different routes.”

During the meeting, residents shared concerns about the timeline stating that environmental surveys will be done after a location has been picked. DOTD confirmed that those items will be done by May 2024 when the location is narrowed down. 

Chair of Capital Area Road and Bridge District, Jay Campbell added that residents can expect more public meetings, public input and final preparation of the environmental documents that go along with the project by the fall or winter of 2024. 

Another thing that was emphasized during the meeting was the purpose of the bridge, which Kalivoda said is to connect highways and not form a loop. 

“The main purpose of this project is to connect Highway 1 with Highway 30. It is not to build a loop around Baton Rouge. And so Highway 1 and Highway 30 are both major arterial highways in the Baton Rouge region. They serve an awful lot of traffic, industrial traffic,” he said. “And so the purpose of the project is to connect those two with a new bridge across the Mississippi River, recognizing that both Highway 30 and Highway 1 would need to be upgraded in the future.”