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United States : Fresh money gets bridge planning moving again.

After following the creation of the Ouachita Expressway Authority in 2007, the group made slow but steady progress toward the development of a workable plan to get a fourth Ouachita River bridge built in the Twin Cities.

But that progress ground to a halt last fall. The culprit was not the estimated high price tag of the bridge or indecision on which direction the authority would take in turning the 40-year-old idea into reality.

The problem was a lack of funding. The authority had no funding to apply toward federal funding or the required studies that needed to be done to get the project moving ahead.

I didn t like being at a standstill, said state Sen. Mike Walsworth, who authored the legislation creating the authority. For a while, we did all the background we could do.

But until we got some real seed money, the authority couldn t move forward.

But this summer, the seed money to allow the authority to resume its work finally came. At the urging of Walsworth, the state Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal approved $100,000 in funding for the authority.

It was the break the authority needed to begin efforts at getting the next phase of the bridge planning under way.

The bridge endeavor is finally moving ahead, said authority Chairman Ron Haisty. This will get it off high center.

The proposed bridge would link U.S. 165 at Fink s Hideaway Road with White s Ferry Road near Tupawek Bayou in West Monroe. In early 2008, a preliminary study by the state Department of Transportation and Development put its cost at $320 million, about $100 million more than expected, because a large portion of it would have to be elevated over Chauvin Bayou.

In 2007, the authority was formed through state legislation and charged with finding ways to fund construction of the bridge.

The 15-member authority has the power to build a toll road and bridge, with the anticipated income used to sell revenue bonds to borrow money to build the project. The authority also has the power to levy a tax, but only with approval of Ouachita Parish voters.

Haisty said the authority will begin discussions with the state Department of Transportation and Development about starting an environmental impact study on the project a requirement for any large infrastructure project in the state. DOTD provided some funding for a Stage Zero study of the project, which was also required.

We ve been told that the EIS may cost up to $1.5 million, Haisty said. We ll work with DOTD to possibly initiate an interagency agreement. We re hoping maybe they would supplement whatever it would take to complete the EIS.

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Date:Jul 26, 2010
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