Gov't

The Loop Is NOT Dead and Central IS Involved

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By Dave Freneaux with Submissions by David Barrow and Wade Giles

In HB-2 Capitol Outlay bill the House approved a little over $6 Million in funding for continued studies of the Baton Rouge Loop.  Last Friday a Senate committee removed all Loop funding from the bill.  As this article is being written there is action in Senate Finance committee to add back some Loop funding  and proponents of the Loop are pledging to try to restore the funding on the Senate floor or in Conference Committee.  HB-2 is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor in the next several days.
In researching to write this article it has become apparent that the sheer volume of documents, studies, legislation, opinions, articles, charts and graphs encountered on the subject of the Loop make this a very complicated issue.  There are, however, three recurring themes which bear printing.  1) There are serious questions about the financial viability of any BR Loop.  2) The people of Central object to even considering a loop unless the collective voice of this City is heard and heeded, and even then, a route which disrupts or divides the City of Central will meet stiff opposition.  3) Central, in order to build a tax base sufficient to maintain a growing city and school system, needs economic Development.

Financial Viability – The Livingston Parish group organized to keep the Loop out of their area supplied CentralSpeaks.com with a great deal of data based on traffic counts, toll rates, and construction costs which were used by the BR Loop Commission in its presentations.  If you wish to delve into this data yourself please email info@CentralSpeaks.com.   In a nutshell, the traffic counts produced by the Loop studies are not sufficient to support the building of a toll road that would pay for itself.  Further, the entire project is based on a guarantee by the government that the investors will make a 12% profit.  This means that tax dollars would have to be used to guarantee that investors got their money back, plus a 12% profit.

Central’s Objection – Public sentiment generally heard around Central is that a major problem with the whole Loop concept is the lack of consideration that seems to be given to what the people of Central want and will support.  The single largest objection is often heard when there is any discussion of a Loop anywhere near the heart of the city.  See also the City of Central’s Press Release below.

Economic Development – Setting aside for a moment the pitfalls of financial viability and Central’s objections, there are potentially meaningful economic benefits for the City of Central should there ever be a major thoroughfare through some part of Central.  See also comments from Wade Giles of the Central Economic Development Foundation below.

With the Loop issue again being considered by our legislators, you are encouraged to contact your elected representatives and voice your opinion, whether you are for or against the Loop.

 

CITY OF CENTRAL PRESS RELEASE- LOOP LEGISLATION UPDATE

A state senate committee rejected additional funding for the Baton Rouge Loop on Friday after nearly an hour of testimony.  The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee was considering House Bill 2, which contains hundreds of individual appropriations, by Rep. Hunter Greene.  State Senator Dale Erdey, who serves on the committee, recommended deleting the $5.2 million appropriation for the loop and move that funding towards an I-10 / LA415 connector in West Baton Rouge Parish .
 
Senator Erdey said there are three possible routes that the loop could take through Central, yet no one on the Loop steering committee could ever provide him with enough information that he wanted.  According to John Carpenter, who is EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden's Assistant Chief Adminstrative Officer, the northern loop is the only part of the project under consideration now, and the price tag has dropped from near $5 billion to $757 million.
 
Senator Buddy Shaw of Shreveport told Carpenter that, "It's a shame that the route has to be determined by where it's most beneficial to the builder," referring to the fact that this would be a toll road built by a private company.  Carpenter named at least 5 firms that have expressed interest in building the project, including several firms from Europe.
 
Erdey also stated that one of the proposed routes goes right through the proposed downtown area of Central near Hooper Road.  Carpenter responded by saying that route isn't really under consideration anymore and won't happen without extensive workshops with the citizens in the area. "It will have to be a route that is acceptable to a large group of people," Carpenter stated.  Erdey stated that the loop committee has made no attempts to come to Central lately to set up public meetings to gather input.
 
In response to Carpenter's comments, Erdey stated, "if the loop's not going through downtown Central, then why is that route still on the map?  We have asked them to take it off, but they won't."
 
Erdey also stated that over $6 million has been spent so far studying the proposed loop, with over $4.5 going to consulting engineers and this project was a dead-end street. 
 
Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer, who has dropped his support for the loop after hearing from citizens in his parish, testified that it's not really a loop anymore. "It's just a bypass that chops up the fastest growing parish in the area," referring to the fact that all the southern routes of the loop have been abandoned and only the northern section across EBR and Livingston Parish would be constructed.   Grimmer agreed with Erdey by stating that no one can tell him where it's going and he cannot get any answers from anyone.
 
Erdey told the committee that there are other options to the loop such as widening Florida Blvd and building a new bridge across the Amite River at the end of Hooper Rd.  Erdey concluded by stating, "This is a quality of life issue that will destroy Central, Watson, and possibly Walker.  Hear the cry of the people who say 'No Loop'."
 
At least a dozen citizens from Livingston Parish and Central attended the hearing and filled out cards voicing their opposition to the continued loop funding.  Rep. Clif Richardson and Rep. Bodi White also attended the hearing.
 
The committee voted 8-2 to stop the funding.  Senators Heitmeier, Erdey, Riser, Adley, Kostelka, Shaw, Morrell, and Morrish voted in favor of the amendment to delete the loop funding.  Senators Rob Marionneaux and Yvonne Dorsey voted against the amendment.
 

It is possible that Rep. Greene will seek to bring up the funding issue again before the legislature convenes in two weeks.

 

THE LOOP- AN ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE

Thanks for bringing the facts to light.  One of the facts is that there is a widespread opposition to any sort of Loop.  The portion of a loop that would affect Central is a “Northern Loop Portion”.  I don’t disagree that the two Southern alternates shown on the Loop maps would bring unwanted division and/or congestion to our present infrastructure.  However the Northernmost alternative seems to be the best solution to bringing needed economic development to our city.  If our school system is to thrive, we must increase the economic tax base.  Without a major Interstate-like thoroughfare it will be extremely difficult to persuade major retailers to locate in the city.  Most successful developments require that it be in close proximity to an Interstate system or similar infrastructure. 
 
By locating the Loop in the Northern part of the city, we could establish a Regional Shopping Center, such as “Town Center” that would attract retail spending from the surrounding areas of Zachary, Baker, St. Francisville, Denham Springs, as well as the rural areas to our north.  Currently, we have a sales leakage of 49%, where a development such as this would create a negative leakage and bring additional spending to our city.  Sales taxes are included in this spending and goes a long way to support our schools and city.  The only opposition to this project has been political.  I only hope that our legislators revisit the funding issue and  refrain from politicizing the project. 
 
Regards,
Wade Giles
President
Central Economic Development Foundation

10 Comments

  1. ward

    June 16, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the update Mr. Giles. I would like to say, in regards to
    ” 2) The people of Central object to even considering a loop unless the collective voice of this City is heard and heeded, and even then, a route which disrupts or divides the City of Central will meet stiff opposition.”

    The concern of a division of the City has already been address. All it took was an election.

  2. resident

    June 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

    What about the people in the “northern” part of the city that it will effect? How many people will end up having to sell their land that has been in the family for YEARS? I for one, do NOT want to be living anywhere near a loop or interstate. I live in the “country” and I want it to stay that way!!!

  3. mike mannino

    June 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    This all boils down to what vision you support for Centrals future.

    One, which I happen to support, calls for controlling Centrals growth through planning and zoning restrictions that do not encourage this type growth to the point of destroying the lifestyle we all moved here for.

    The second is a wide open development plan that gobbles up our wide open spaces under the guise of growing our tax base to support our schools.

    Lets assume that we take option 2. The developers get rich, Central becomes South Baton Rouge, tax receipts will not keep up with needs and at the end of the day, the losers are those who want a quiet country lifestyle. Taxes go up because growth outpaces services, congestion grows, infrastructure needs increase exponetially. The loop, of which the Northern part has the least benefit of all the sections, will hasten the over-run of Central.

    Somebody needs to explain to me why if we are satisfied that we are keeping up with our needs today with excellent Schools that have quickly moved to one of the best in the state, we would ENCOURAGE these problems. The overwelming majority of us are quite satisfied with things the way they are, with a slow, managable growth. Those that support this folly are mostly business owners that see big dollar signs.

    WHAT DO WE WANT THAT REQUIRES SO MUCH INCREASE IN TAX REVENUE ?????????

    Ward,
    To your comments, the election didnt divide the city. It was already there because of polar opposite viewpoints like this loop, which by the way is supported by a very very small minority. Let one of our officials support it and see how fast they are thrown out of office.

  4. taxpayer

    June 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I understand that most of the development that Central “needs” to support a sustainable community needs some sort of “Interstate system or similar infrastructure” to locate major retailers around. We are getting a free one basically with the Central Thruway. It is not as large as the LOOP and it is not overtaking our rural areas. Seems like this is all we need in Central. A diet interstate for a smaller town.

  5. Mike Mannino

    June 16, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    To anyone that has any opinion that this is a viable project that addresses the traffic not only in Central but all of BR, let me ask the following:

    – What is the problem ( traffic)

    – Will this address the problem ( No)

    – Is it cost effective ( No)

    – What are the alternatives ( Widening of I 12, 4 laning Hooper, bridge across Hooper, 4 laning Wax to 16 )

    – Is the alternative cost effective ( Yes)

    – Is the alternative viable ( yes)

    – Who benefits from the loop ( Not us)

    CASE CLOSED……….

  6. taxpayer

    June 16, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Mike, I agree with the alternatives. I also think that the Central Thruway is a good alternative. I would have a very hard time understanding how the LOOP would help us at all. I hear that Magnolia Brige may finally be receiving some attention. If it’s worth having it’s worth fighting for so what should we, as a city, do to suggest the alternatives you mentioned to government?

  7. resident

    June 17, 2010 at 9:57 am

    The government already knows about the alternatives. They don’t want the alternatives. They want a loop. They don’t care what would be the best for us. All they see is dollar signs.

  8. mike mannino

    June 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Taxpayer,
    Thankfully, our local representatives are fighting against this with the exception of 1 State Senator. There is overwelming support against this across the board so it makes me wonder why its being pushed so hard. Do they know something we dont, are they smarter than us, or does someone have something to gain. Follow the money.

  9. Kyle

    June 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    It’s Kip’s dream and legacy! That’s it! Pure and simple!

  10. Mike Mannino

    June 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Why though Kyle ? Why would he have so much passion for something as ridiculous as the Northern route ? Somethings up.

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