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Stop Sprawl
THE BATON ROUGE BYPASS - A CITIZENS' REPORT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
THE ALLIANCE FOR RESPONSIBLE TRANSPORTATION AND THE SIERRA CLUB

The Alliance for Responsible Transportation is a newly formed citizens' group concerned with the transportation problems in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. The group arose out of opposition to the proposed Baton Rouge bypass, but its mission is broader: to promote the study and implementation of rational, long-term solutions to Baton Rouge's transportation problems. We have found that these problems are severe for a city of this size, and that little has been done in the way of coordinated planning to solve them. We call for a comprehensive plan and for a Transit Coordinator in the city-parish government to facilitate public involvement in such a plan.

I. The Proposed Bypass

1. Traffic Concerns: It Doesn't Work

  • The recent study by Rust Environmental Services shows that the bypass would relieve only 8-12% of the traffic on the I-10.
  • Local traffic constitutes 80-85% of traffic on the current interstates. The proposed bypass does not address this source of congestion.
  • The proposed bypass does nothing for North Baton Rouge, yet residents of this area will be asked to pay for it.
  • It does not create a loop that connects one side of the city to the other

2. Financial Concerns: It's Very Expensive

  • The cost is conservatively estimated to be $960,000,000 to $1Billion. Estimates are likely to go up.
  • Given the usual allocation of 80% funding by the federal government, the bypass would absorb 70% of federal highway funds for the entire state during construction.
  • Funding by tolls would be inadequate. The Rust study projects $109- 285 million in toll revenues. In addition, the toll bridge would be competing with a free bridge nearby.
  • Local officials are discussing raising taxes in a five-parish area to pay for the bypass.
  • The amount could be better spent on improving existing roads and highways, which are already targeted by local planners.

3. Economic Concerns: Urban Sprawl Does not Equal "Smart Growth"

  • Bypasses and beltways tend to open up new areas of land to economic development, but often at the expense of the central city. This can reduce the city's tax base and its ability to deliver needed services, as well as reducing accessibility of city residents who do not own a car to jobs.
  • Bypasses don't create growth, but only divert it.
  • Although bypasses are designed to relieve congestion, they frequently create additional congestion by inducing more vehicular travel. More vehicular travel generally means more pollution.
  • According to the Rust study, the main economic benefit from the bypass would come from the influx of federal funds during construction. Using that money to subsidize public transportation would have a greater positive economic impact.
  • Urban sprawl does not equal "Smart growth".

4. Environmental, Historical, and Cultural: It's Very Destructive.

Environmental. The proposed bypass routes would adversely affect several wetland areas, including:

  • The middle Amite River basin between I-12 and Port Vincent, which hosts several endangered species and rare plant communities.
  • Bayou Manchac and the forested areas to its north
  • Bluff Swamp, including Spanish Lake and Alligator Bayou.

Historical

  • Bayou Manchac was a major trade route in the eighteenth century between the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. It enabled the British to Trade with the North while avoiding Spanish-controlled New Orleans.
  • The junction of Bayou Manchac, Bayou Fountain, and Alligator Bayou was the site of a large Indian village.
  • The Cinclare Sugar Mill on the west bank of the Mississippi River,a nominee for the National Register of Historic Places, would be close to the proposed route.

Cultural

  • The Alligator Bayou-Spanish Lake area has long been a favored spot for canoeists and fishermen. Recently, Alligator Bayou Tours has made it more accessible, and is dedicated to preserving Louisiana culture through exhibits, dancing, and entertainment. The area is also an educational asset to researchers and students at LSU.

5. Political Concerns: There Is Considerable Opposition.

  • A rising tide of opposition has come from homeowners and public
    bodies in the affected areas, particularly Ascension Parish. Recently, U.S. Representative Richard Baker, a proponent of the bypass, has conceded it has "problems", as has the Baton Rouge Advocate.
  • It has been alleged that one reason for proposing the bypass was to attract federal money to the area. But federal funding is available for more intelligent solutions such as improved public transportation.

II. Alternatives

There is no single solution to Baton Rouge's transportation woes.

  • There is a need for comprehensive regional planning.
  • There is a need for more local funding.
  • There is a need for vision to embrace a greater variety of transportation solutions than the single-occupancy vehicle.

A. Infrastructure Alternatives

  • Improve existing Baton Rouge streets to reduce dependency on the interstates. At present there is only one four-lane route from the Southern end of Baton Rouge to downtown: I-10.
  • Improve I-10 by widening and adding service roads.
  • Utilize the Sunshine Bridge by improving the roads leading to it.
  • The extension of I-49 from Lafayette to New Orleans should relieve some of the pressure of through traffic in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area.

B. Transit Alternatives.

  • Restore our local bus system. Baton Rouge has one of the lowest operating budgets for a southern city of comparable size. People who depend on buses are poorly served by the existing system with its limited and infrequent service. Buses can be a significant part of the solution to traffic congestion.
  • A light rail system from Our Lady of the Lake via LSU to downtown has been studied. It would operate as trolleys did years ago, but could use some of the KCS railroad track. Capital costs are projected to be $190.7-249.7 million.
  • Studies concur that park and ride facilities are desirable. Thanks to funds from the ozone reduction program, lots are already being planned in Baker, Gonzales, and Denham Springs. More are on the way.
  • A plan is in place for extending bicycle and pedestrian paths, but there are no means to implement it. The plan calls for a part-time staff coordinator in city-parish government to oversee the integration of this plan with other transportation alternatives.

C. An Added Benefit: Reducing Air Pollution

These alternatives can reduce ozone levels if used correctly. For example, the use of frequent express buses on a transit corridor such as I-12 could reduce total emissions.

  • The ozone problem has been studied. Once again, no single solution will suffice. Among the more effective measures would be:
    1) Employer incentive programs for carpooling,
    2) "no drive days" for automobiles with given licenses.
  • A combination of employer incentives, park-and-ride, and express buses on the interstates would significantly reduce congestion and pollution.
  • The success of such measures depends on change in commuter habits and attitudes. The probability of change can be enhanced by effective public education.

For more info, contact 74323.3210@compuserve.com. Copies of the full report are available. A donation for copying and mailing is requested.


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