Drivers using La. 1 in West Baton Rouge Parish during November will be stopped at random and asked to participate in a travel demand survey designed to help determine the financial feasibility of a proposed connector route linking La. 415 to La. 1.
The survey, being administered by CDM Smith through a contract with the parish, is part of a $460,000, eight-month investment-grade study associated with a proposed toll road project advocated by Parish President Riley “Peewee” Berthelot.
Berthelot asserts the toll road would help ease traffic congestion at the Port Allen bridge, which spans a section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in West Baton Rouge Parish known as the Port Allen Canal.
More than 44,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily, according to previous reports.
“This investment-grade study is something we’ll be able to go to the bank with and use to sell off a few bonds we may need to start construction with,” Berthelot said in his office Tuesday.
Preliminary designs for the connector route, by engineering firm Volkert & Associates in Baton Rouge, call for building a 2.7-mile, $130 million, four-lane toll road, Berthelot said.
The project’s initial cost could drop to about $75 million if the parish decides to build a two-lane route with an option to widen the road later if need be, Berthelot added.
“In order to finance this, it will have to be done with toll revenue,” Berthelot said.
This is where the travel demand survey comes in, CDM Smith project manager Jonathon Hart said.
Hart said plans call for interviewers to approach La. 1 drivers at traffic lights and hand out informational cards asking them to go online and complete a 10-minute, Web-based survey.
Hart said participants would be asked why they use La. 1, how often they travel the busy roadway and how they believe their travel times could be
reduced with alternative routes.
“There will also be some broad questions asking people how much they would be willing to spend to save X amount of time with a connector route,” he added. “We have to develop a value of time.”
To ensure the survey’s participation numbers and results aren’t skewed, Hart would not reveal the date, time or specific locations along La. 1 where survey personnel would contact motorists.
Hart said the company is hoping to get between 1,200 to 1,400 people to complete the survey.
“We’ll have deputies on hand to ensure safety and make sure traffic doesn’t start backing up when we stop cars,” Hart said.
As an incentive, drivers taking part in the survey will be entered in a drawing with a chance to win one of three $500 Visa gift cards provided by CDM Smith, Hart said.