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|Walsworth sticks with northern bridge location|
Sen. Mike Walsworth hasn't given up on the proposed construction of a fourth bridge over the Ouachita River linking Monroe and West Monroe.
Walsworth also still favors utilizing a corridor linking La. 143 in western Ouachita Parish to U.S. Highway 165 in north Monroe.
Last week, The Ouachita Citizen reported the Ouachita Parish Police Jury has included a project to connect La. 34 to U.S. 165 in southern Ouachita as part of police jury's 2009-2010 capital outlay requests, which the police jury must submit to the state by Nov. 1.
Parish engineer Don Harrison said the police jury would look at the alternative route for building new bridge in the Monroe/West Monroe area since a recent study indicated the La. 143-U.S. 165 connector/bridge would cost almost $250 million.
"We think it's time to look at a crossing on the south side," Harrison said. "From previous studies, that seems to be much more cost effective and affordable."
He said a study conducted in 1995 indicated the La. 34-U.S. 165 connector project would cost roughly $37 million.
But earlier this week, Walsworth said he has not had any discussion with the police jury about looking at a location in southern Ouachita Parish for the proposed bridge.
"I heard through media reports about this new bridge site," said Walsworth, R-West Monroe. "My focus over the last several years has been the fourth bridge site that the Ouachita Council of Governments has approved."
"I will try to work on finding the funding for that one," Walsworth said, referring to the La. 143-U.S. 165 connector project.
"The police jury can look at other options if they so choose, but my focus is on the northern site," Walsworth added.
Walsworth has talked with Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development officials about reducing the cost of the La. 143-U.S. 165 connector project.
"I think there are ways to bring that down," Walsworth continued. "DOTD believes we can lower that amount by looking at different options.
"Right now we're building a bridge in Sterlington for $38 million. We're trying to do the same thing for the northern bridge site.
"If we can build a mile and a half bridge in Sterlington for $38 million, why does it cost $250 million to build a four-mile bridge. That just doesn't add up.
"We're working to try and get that number down. We think that's extremely high."
The Ouachita Expressway Authority, which was created by legislation sponsored by Walsworth, is looking at ways to proceed with the La. 143-U.S. 165 connector project.
"My focus has been trying to get a fourth bridge," Walsworth said. "We've been arguing for it for 40 years and it's time to make it happen."
One option to reduce the price is making it a single-leg bridge instead of the proposed two-leg bridge, Walsworth said. Also, he said portions of the corridor could be constructed so its travels on land instead of above ground.
"I think those things would bring the cost down," he said.
The Ouachita Expressway Authority is expected to meet this week to continue discussion about the project.