Ascension Transportation Department gains new engineer

The Ascension Parish government has plucked an engineer from Baton Rouge to help address the parish’s growing traffic concerns.

Jason Taylor, who spent 12 years as an engineer with the East Baton Rouge Parish government, was introduced Tuesday night to the Ascension Parish Council’s Transportation Committee as a new senior project manager for the parish’s Engineering Department.

Taylor, 40, has spent the past two years as a safety engineer for Louisiana Transportation Research Center, an effort by LSU and the state Department of Transportation and Development that focuses on improving the state’s transportation systems. At the same time, he has been working on his master’s degree in civil engineering.

Ben Laurie, the parish’s chief engineer, said he had worked with Taylor in the past and recruited him to replace Ray Miller, who left for a job in Texas, Parish President Tommy Martinez said.

“We recognize he brings a lot to the table and is going to be a great resource for the parish,” Laurie said.

Taylor, a Baton Rouge native and licensed professional engineer, said he’s still unsure exactly what his role will be with the parish, but he plans to lean heavily on his previous transportation background, where he has experience working both with DOTD and the Federal Highway Administration.

Taylor also has worked with the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Planning Organization, a five-parish transportation planning group that sets priorities for road spending in the region.

Laurie said the decision to hire Taylor shows parish officials remain committed to “working aggressively to maximize the limited resources” designated for improving transportation in the parish.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride, I think,” Taylor said.

Other issues addressed during the meeting included:

CUTTING GRASS: Martinez said parish officials have approached DOTD about providing additional funds to the parish for cutting grass on state highways.

The current contract, which expires in July, provides the parish $151,000.

However, parish officials said the cost to the parish is $433,000 annually, a difference of $282,000.

DOTD will perform an audit of the parish’s figures, Martinez said, adding he’s hopeful some of the gap between the amounts will be met with a new contract.