Questions and Answers About the Loop

The following represents the opinions of Central City News editor Woody Jenkins:

Question: Every big city has a loop around it.  I want one here.  Why shouldn’t Baton Rouge have a loop?

Answer: Louisiana has massive transportation problems and a backlog of $13 billion in unfunded highway projects.  Many of these are desperately needed, such as the Hooper Road Bridge.  Because funds are so short and lives are at stake, we have to fund the most-needed projects that will actually provide some relief. The fact that most big cities have a loop and you want one too is completely irrelevant.  We have to look at the needs and try to meet them.

The Louisiana Legislature approved the Highway Priority Program in the late 1970’s to take highway construction out of politics and base it on objective traffic studies.  Yet, do you realize the Baton Rouge Loop is not in the state’s 10-year Highway Priority Program?  That’s because the traffic studies do not show it to be a project that has any merit.  Simply put: It won’t solve any of the Baton Rouge area’s enormous transportation needs — even at its $6 billion price tag.  It is a political project, which was originated by Mayor-President Kip Holden and a host of consultants, engineers, and contractors.

Question: What do the traffic studies show?

Answer: The constituency for the Loop is South Baton Rouge.  The people there are overwhelmed with outrageous delays every time they leave their homes.  They want something — anything — done to improve the situation.  For many, the attitude is, yeah, I’m for the Loop, anything to give us some relief!  The problem is, the Loop provides no relief for South Baton Rouge.  For example, one traffic study done by the Loop analyzed I-10 from the I-10/I-12 split to Highland Road.  The two options were No Build (that is, what is the traffic count on this highway if the Loop is not built) and Build the Loop with a 15 cents a mile toll (what is the traffic count from I-10/I-12 to Highland if the Loop is built).  The traffic study shows No Build 88,935 cars a day and Build Loop 88,029 cars a day.  Spend $6 billion and accomplish nothing. That’s the Loop’s study!

Other traffic studies done by the Loop are equally discouraging.  The financial projections done by the Loop are even worse.  There is no way under any projection that tolls can pay the cost of building the Loop.  Ultimately, the taxpayers would be strong-armed into paying the bill for a partially-complete white elephant.


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