The Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) said there is no delay in construction of the new Jimmie Davis Bridge in south Bossier-Shreveport and no decision has been made regarding making it a toll bridge.
In a comment on The Bossier Press-Tribune’s Facebook page, DOTD Public Information Officer Erin Buchanan said, “There is currently no ‘delay’ in moving forward with the process of constructing a new 4-lane bridge and converting the existing 2-lane bridge to a pedestrian cross-over. Because the scope of the project changed last year from an extensive rehabilitation to the construction of a new bridge, a supplement to the initial Environmental Assessment has to be conducted. This is a requirement in order to receive any federal funding. The supplemental EA is ongoing and should be complete in the next few months. This is a normal part of the process.”
This follows a story published by the BPT Wednesday that a supplemental EA was being conducted and construction on the bridge would not begin until 2020.
Louisiana Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City), who was instrumental in helping secure funding for the bridge and first communicated about the supplemental EA, replied to DOTD’s comments with an email Thursday. The email said that District 37 received a copy of the completed “Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant impact” for a new Jimmie Davis Bridge in July/August 2015, 20 months ago. Peacock said this executive summary on Pages ES-1 and ES-2 says the project is for a “new 4-lane bridge structure with bicycle pedestrian facilities.”
“The rehabilitation of the existing bridge was scrapped, as was communicated to me in May 2016 because the environmental assessment had been completed. I was told by DOTD that the new project would proceed rapidly,” Sen. Barrow Peacock said.
In an email received on March 14, 2017, by DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson, Wilson wrote, “Under a design-bid-build process, the earliest we could let the project is Summer 2020.”
Peacock says this is completely unacceptable and inexcusable, “DOTD should react quicker for the citizens of Shreveport-Bossier.”
The story also addressed communication from Dr. Wilson to Sen. Peacock that the bridge could become a toll bridge, which Dr. Wilson is not a certainty.
“No decision has been made on a toll and we’re a long time out from that. Considering our fiscal situation, it’s important that we remain open to discussing a variety of funding sources,” Dr. Wilson said via Buchanan’s post.
“Tolling is not my first choice, nor would it be the only choice as a funding option for the Jimmie Davis Bridge,” Dr. Wilson said. “But I also have to take into consideration sustainability and the maintenance costs for the thousands of bridge structures we have in our state.”
Peacock added that he is opposed to any toll. He noted DOTD had $23 million – $9 million of it being capital outlay money approved by the Legislature and the State Bond Commission – that was allocated for rehabilitation of the existing bridge. Peacock’s email said this money, when matched with federal funds, should come very close to covering the state’s match when applying for federal funds for a new bridge.
“I have to question where the $23 million has gone that was allocated to the bridge and why these funds are not available,” Peacock said.
Meanwhile, Buchanan also said concepts are being developed by the DOTD team in Baton Rouge that take into consideration how best to develop the existing Jimmie Davis Bridge into a pedestrian crossing that connects the Clyde Fant Parkway in Shreveport and the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway in Bossier City.
Also as part of this process, the concept for the new 4-lane bridge is being developed, which will be constructed just north of the pedestrian bridge.
Those concepts will be on display at upcoming public meetings, during which residents will be given the opportunity to ask questions and give input. The dates and times for those meetings will be announced when they’re finalized.
“DOTD understands the significance of this project to the residents in both Shreveport and Bossier City and is working diligently to ensure the project moves forward,” Buchanan said via her post. “We’ll continue to keep taxpayers informed of developments and will announce dates for the upcoming public meetings as soon as those are finalized.”