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|Interstate 530: Monticello/Monroe route could cost $1.7 billion|
The proposed construction of Interstate 530 between northeast Louisiana and southern Arkansas could cost as much as $1.7 billion, a consulting company official said late last week.
Representatives from the highway consulting company, Parsons Inc., unveiled a months-long feasibility study at a public hearing Thursday in Bastrop. The study looked into the costs/benefits ratio of building I-530 from Monticello to east of Monroe.
Morehouse Economic Development CEO Kay Price said the impact of I-530 would be "tremendous to this community" should it ever be built.
"This will be the biggest thing for Morehouse Parish since International Paper," Price said.
She pointed to a proposed corridor I-530, which would follow U.S. Highway 165. The proposed location for the new interstate connector takes the highway through Bastrop. More than 20,000 people per day use the existing roads along which the proposed I-530 route would take.
"We need to realize we have to move traffic," Price said. "I'm pleased to see us working aggressively to achieve that, even if it's 30 years down the road."
Parsons Inc. examined two potential corridors -- a five-mile wide route that proceeds south along Highway 165 from Bastrop and a second five-mile wide corridor that takes the proposed highway along U.S. 425 into the Rayville area.
Taking I-530 to Rayville would cost some $1.3 billion while the same road extended to Monroe would cost some $1.7 billion because of increased real estate values in that area.
Ben Marshall, a Monroe attorney who served two terms on the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, touted the economic benefits of the road to Monroe. He said the consultants estimated the economic benefits of bringing the road to Monroe would be almost double that of the alternate, Rayville route.
Marshall also applauded the Bastrop community for making the unveiling of Parsons study a success.
"The Bastrop folks have really shown up big time and gotten behind this project," Marshall said.
With the feasibility study complete, the next step will entail an environmental impact study to look at all environmental benefits and side effects of building I-530.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander said he is working with members of Congress to find the necessary funds for the environmental impact study, which could top $10 million and take several years to complete.
"This is a starting project but we have tremendous interest at the local and state level, all the way up to the federal level," said Alexander, R-Quitman. "We're all working hard to move this project forward."
Alexander said he had already discussed the matter with Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas.
"We know it's going to cost quite a bit to get the groundwork laid," Alexander said. "We will work to do what we can to secure the funding."
Alexander declined to speculate on a timeframe for funding the environmental study and said he doesn't anticipate movement until 2009.
"It will probably be spring of next year before we can get the funding for the study," Alexander said.
Until that time, Alexander said he and his staff are working to make sure they are ready for congressional budget hearings.
"We'll make sure we have our ducks in a row when that time gets here," Alexander said.