Ascension council gives OK to West Bank Connector study funding

The Ascension Parish Council on Thursday approved a proposed contract with Iberville Parish to share the costs to conduct a feasibility study of a new highway on the west bank of the Mississippi.

Contingent on action of the Iberville Parish Council, Ascension Parish would provide $125,000 toward the study, its share of funds to match state monies approved in the past legislative session for the study.

Called the West Bank Connector, the route would go from Interstate 10 west of Port Allen to La. 1 south of Plaquemine. The project would also include a new Mississippi River bridge at Plaquemine.

Such a highway would “put 122,980 acres in play” for development on the west bank of the river, Craig Gardner, director of business development for SJB Group, told the council.

The Baton Rouge design firm has put together information on the proposed project for the state and local governing bodies.

“It’s needed. Chemical plants are looking for more sites on the west bank,” Gardner said.

The new highway and bridge would relieve traffic congestion on I-10 through Baton Rouge and provide an alternate evacuation route during hurricanes and emergencies, he said.

In the future, an accessible west bank could mean $1 billion to $2 billion in new construction projects, he said.

“This is an important project. It is about our future,” said Councilwoman Teri Casso.

In an unrelated matter Thursday, the council voted to send back to its Transportation Committee the issue of whether to repair or remove speed bumps on Tiggy Duplessis Road.

The speed bumps were installed several years ago, after School Board member Tiggy Duplessis died in a hit-and-run accident when he was getting his mail on the road.

Resident Barney Cox spoke to the council in favor of repairing and keeping the speed bumps.

“Tiggy has become a cut-through road. We have so many 18-wheelers going through the road,” Cox said. “Some people slow down for the bumps and another car will pass them while they’re slowing down.”