Barksdale Air Force Base’s importance to the United States military and the Bossier City community have led the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments Metropolitan Planning Organization to name modifications to the Barksdale Gate access road and the Interstate 20/Interstate 220 interchange its highest priority among mega projects for Bossier and Caddo parishes.
The project would extend the roadway from I-220 to the proposed new Barksdale Gate. It also includes improvements to the existing I-20/I-220 interchange. The goals for this project include enhancing national security and defense by ensuring unimpeded arrivals at Barksdale, as well as alleviating traffic congestion and delays, according to an NLCOG report.
“There are several factors that go with that,” said Kent Rogers, executive director of NLCOG. “One is the big immediate need because of all of the other stuff going on at the base and all of the incoming missions of the base. Currently all of the other gates have some inhabitants to them. Basically, this will give them some inhibited entrance and exit without having to deal with railroad tracks or things like that.”
Chris Petro, MPO deputy direct, said the general public should see reduced traffic in the area around the North Gate and West Gate of Barksdale. He also said the changes would benefit military and civilian personnel coming and going from the base.
“It gives off-base personnel living in North Bossier an easier way to access the base from that direction, rather than going down to North Gate or around to West Gate,” Petro said.
He also said the new access road would be a benefit for military families living on base, particularly when it comes to taking their children to school. Currently, the Bodcau Gate to the base is open a few hours in the morning and in the afternoon to allow buses access to the base.
“It really compliments Bossier Parish School Board’s endeavor with Barksdale when it comes to education choices and opportunities,” Petro said. “For the kids who live on base, they can get out of this new gate easier and quicker.”
Bossier Parish Schools Superintendent Scott Smith agreed.
“Bossier Schools is certainly supportive of the interchange, which will pave the way for better access into and out of Barksdale Air Force Base,” Smith said. “Not only will it be a benefit in terms of providing school bus transportation and improved routing, but it will also offer families a more direct outlet to schools in Bossier Parish, now that School of Choice is offered to students living on base.”
Rogers added that making this project the top priority was, in part, a show of support from the community for Barksdale.
“It’s a lot of goodwill for the community working with the base,” Rogers said. “There will be another BRAC at some point in time. Probably sooner than we really want. The more local support a base has, the better off they are going to be.”
Rogers said that this project is being timed to coincide with Barksdale’s work on a new weapons storage area, sometime in 2020 or 2021. The estimated cost for the project is between $50 million and $80 million. The final cost will depend on how much of the original engineering work still can be used, Rogers said. Once the projects begins, it is expected to take 18 months to 2 years to complete.
Other projects on the NLCOG’s list of priorities include the Jimmie Davis Bridge, the extension of 3132, the I-49 Inner City Connector, I-20 improvements and maintenance, and North Louisiana passenger rail service.
While the I-20/I-220 interchange and Barksdale access road are the NLCOG’s top priority, Rogers emphasized that it might not the the first project to get under way.
“It all depends on getting through the environmental process, getting the engineering work done, getting right-of-way acquired, getting under construction, all those things,” he said. “So there is this huge matrix of things that get involved that ultimately determine when a project goes out for bid for construction.”
By Scott Anderson