BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Governor John Bel Edwards touched on many important topics at the Rotary Club such as the state’s current COVID-19 numbers and improving education but the one topic he was most passionate about was securing funding for the new Mississippi River South Bridge.
Edwards said this 500 million dollar proposal is the first time any administration has proposed any kind of funding like this.
“The traffic problems here are the worst in the state and the common denominator there is I-10 coming through Baton Rouge,” said Edwards.
The solution? Build a bridge that will provide additional cross-river transportation in the Capital City. An investment Edwards believes is the single most important priority for infrastructure, but funding this bridge has been a challenge.
“I can tell you that you cannot build a new bridge in Baton Rouge connected to the interstates on both the west and the east sides of the city for less than two billion dollars,” said Edwards.
The governor says making a financial commitment is the first step in getting the bridge completed. He’s asking for a 500 million dollar allocation of one-time funds solely for the bridge, money Edwards said the state already has.
“There’s a lot of money there for excess in the current year that was surplus last year, and there’s American Rescue Plan dollars,” said Edwards.
There’s just one problem, the legislature needs to back this budget. Edwards said he’s being met with some resistance when it comes to securing the full 500 million.
“I asked for 500 million dollars. They reduced it, they put it in the fund that can be spent on anything,” said Edwards.
As a result, Edwards said it cuts the state out of getting federal grants as well as losing out on extra funds from private partners.
“They don’t want to spend those millions of dollars only to find out we weren’t serious. This is the best opportunity we’ve ever had, and nobody can assure you that this time next year we will have another one,” said Edwards.
The Senate will take up the funding bills on Friday. Edwards is asking that people contact their representatives to help fight for the funding of the bridge.