BAFB, I-20/220 upgrades on the way

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The long-gestating new Barksdale Air Force Base east gate off I-20/220 in Bossier City looks to be moving closer to reality.

Interstate upgrades to improve access to BAFB has been a wish among many officials, and have been planned for around 40 years. But it wasn’t until funding was moved around late last year that the upgrades became more than a desire.

The original plan for the interchange was drafted in the 1970s, but due to cost, concern over access to the base, and designation of the roadway, the gate wasn’t built.

“Everybody locally didn’t want any road to go through the base and some people in the Federal Highway Administration and DOTD said this entrance would be a new I-20. Well, it’s not a new interstate, it’s just a ramp and it’s not going through the base, just up to it. Now everybody has come around to that position and we’re all on the same page,” Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker previously told the Bossier Press-Tribune.

The money was secured when work along I-10 received a U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant. Gov. John Bel Edwars and the Louisiana  Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) took those funds, that were now freed up, and moved them towards the I-20/220 upgrades

The plan is to continue the I-220 loop interchange into Barksdale Air Force Base at I-20 near Louisiana Downs.

The end product will be a improved traffic flow that will help the base’s eastern housing developments without interference from railroad tracks

“Direct access to the base from the interstate is what we are working towards. Please remember that the interstate system was originally developed for this purpose,” said Kent Rogers, executive director of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments. “The facility south of I-20 will be only for base access. Signage along the existing I-20 and I-220 will indicate this. Also there will be a turnaround area for those individuals that are denied access to the base.”

President of Barksdale Forward Murray Viser said the termination of I-220 into Barksdale and the new gate associated with it will provide for better access for the approximately 700 families living on the east side of Barksdale.

“The current East Gate is directly south of the KCS rail line off of Industrial Drive.  If there is a train on the tracks traffic backs up both on and off the base.  To further complicate things, the commercial vehicle inspection station is located at that gate. When the terminus and the new gate are finished, the commercial vehicle inspection station will be relocated to the new gate which will also provide another secure access point for better traffic flow into and out of Barksdale.  These projects will also allow room for expansion of existing missions and potential new missions on base,” Viser explained.

An Interchange Justification Study for the project was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in November. Bossier officials expect to receive the study by the middle of this month.

DOTD designed two options in addition to the original plan that would bring the interchange up to current standards. The FHWA will comment on which option is preferred.

“FHWA reviews the environmental portion off base, Department of Defense reviews the environmental portion on base. Once environmental is approved then final design can begin,” Rogers said.

The project will cost an estimated $60-$80 million depending on which design is selected and how much of the original design is usable. Barksdale would like the interchange construction to be completed in 2020, Rogers said.