Let’s Kill The Loop

It appears that Kip Holden’s pet project for the destruction of Livingston Parish is still alive and well. The Capital Area Expressway, generally known as “the Loop”, has arisen from the ashes once again.  Apparently, the first phase of the Environmental Impact Survey has been completed and it is time for another comment period.  I would urge all of you to make your opposition known.  The comment period ends on February 22.  Comments should be mailed to: Raul Regis, P.E., 10000 Perkins Rowe, Suite 640, Baton Rouge LA 70810.

I was also made privy this week to a letter from Congressman Garret Graves concerning this issue.  The tone of the letter seems to read like Rep. Graves thinks the Loop is the best thing since sliced bread. He needs to hear from you as well.  The following is the text of my letter to Graves. Feel free to use any or all of it in your comment to the Expressway Authority or to let Rep. Graves know how you feel.  Thanks for your support!

Hon. Garret Graves
United States House of Representatives
204 Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Re: Baton Rouge Loop project

Dear Congressman Graves:

Your correspondence dated January 26, 2016 regarding the Baton Rouge Loop project and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act has come to my attention. I would like to take this opportunity to voice my opposition the proposed Baton Rouge Loop, which is not the solution to the Capital Area’s transportation problems.

The proposed Loop is the brainchild of Mayor Kip Holden of Baton Rouge and a group of consultants who have already made substantial amounts of money on this project and stand to make a windfall if the project is actually approved. Certainly the traffic and infrastructure problems in the Greater Baton Rouge area have to be addressed. However, the Baton Rouge Loop is not the solution.

I note that your letter describes the Capital Area Expressway Authority as being comprised of “two of the five area parish presidents.” That raises the question of what about the other three? The answer is simple. The parish presidents of the other three parishes have resigned from the Authority because the are opposed to the proposed Loop. In addition, the parish councils of those three parishes have voted numerous times not to support the Loop, including a resolution by the Livingston Parish Council just last week. You may ask why these public officials in the affected areas are so opposed to the loop? The answer is simple. It does not serve the needs of the people of the surrounding parishes and will destroy our communities.

The Loop, as proposed, will solve some of the City of Baton Rouge’s traffic problems at the expense of its neighboring parishes. I, and many other residents, have reviewed the proposed project at length. The primary problem with the proposed expressway is the fact that it will disrupt and carve up existing communities, particularly in the Watson area. One of the primary objections which I have to the project is that if the purpose was to take out as many private homes and public facilities as possible, the proposed corridor could not have been drawn any better than it is now. For example, there are 2 proposed corridors which that cross the Amite River from Central to Watson. One of those corridors crosses the river just north of the existing Magnolia Beach Road bridge. That corridor will require removal of the historic Amite Baptist Church cemetery, will cut off at least 3 subdivisions containing hundreds of homes. And that is only in the first mile from the river crossing.

The other corridor crosses the Amite River north of the Old Greenwell Springs hospital. That corridor will pass directly through the new Live Oak High School property and will also affect North Live Oak Elementary and the Live Oak Ball Park, which recent underwent a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation. That corridor would also pass directly through at least two of the largest residential developments in Livingston Parish. What are we supposed to do about our homes? What are we supposed to do with our dead? Where are we supposed to educate our children or provide recreational opportunities for them.

There are also other alternatives to solving the gridlock in Baton Rouge, without doing so at the expense of the surrounding parishes. For instance, the group Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS) is a business and industry group which has proposed several projects which would make the proposed Loop unnecessary . These include
a. widening I-10 from the Mississippi River bridge to the I-10/I-12 split;
b. creating a commuter route from Ascension Parish along I-10 or Airline Highway;
c. Building an additional bridge across the Mississippi River South of Baton Rouge and widening Nicholson Drive to Gonzales;
d. Upgrading Airline Highway to an expressway from the Old Bridge to Gonzales; and
e. Building a north bypass from Airline Highway to Livingston Parish.

I would also point out that the Hooper Road extension has been approved, which would improve traffic flow in the Central area and provide another bridge across the Amite River to Highway 16 in Watson.

These projects would primarily use existing corridors, which would negate the problem of buying up land and acquiring new right of ways. They would also divert more traffic to the existing U.S. 190 bridge, which even DOTD recognizes as being underutilized. Increasing use of the U.S. 190 bridge would offer a cheaper and more readily available way to move more traffic across the Mississippi River from West Baton Rouge Parish.

These are just some of the reasons why the Capital Area Expressway should be allowed to die a quiet death, once and for all. I am eager to hear from you regarding this subject. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Kill The Loop

  1. Bob Watts says:

    Robbie, I have information that Graves has been making comments to a person from Watson that this project “will never happen”. Supposedly he has told one of our group that the only reason that the CAEA keeps going with these EIS impact statements is that they have already been PAID for work to include Tier II EIS statements and they are simply trying to fulfill the contract. If that is the case why does not the LADOTD step in and stop this whole boondoggle.

    The implementation plan of the CAEA states that once a “corridor” has been chosen that the entire corridor must be “locked in”. No development of improvements to existing property in the corridor will be allowed and the parish is responsible for enforcing that requirement. It appears that your home is in the corridor. We have two letters from Layton Ricks opposing the loop, and stating that the parish will not accept responsibility for maintaining the “no improvement” requirement demanded by the CAEA.

    Our group, Neighbors in Action filed a comprehensive rebuttal to Tier I EIS. We submitted numerous exhibits, letters of opposition from the Parish councils from Mike Grimmer’s administration to Layton Ricks’ first term. Also letters of opposition from the entire Livingston parish legislative delegation, the entire Ascension Parish council, the council of the City of Central, the Livingston parish Sheriff, and School Board…along with the Sierra Club, numerous editorials of opposition by the Livingston Parish News, and copies of petition forms opposing the loop from Livingston parish voters bearing over 3500 signatures. We also questioned the makeup, or lack thereof, of the CAEA because of resignations of Mr. Grimmer, and the Parish Presidents of Ascension,Iberville, and the legality of their continuing to function without a quorum. Of note: The Secretary of the LADOTD was a member of the board of the CAEA. We questioned the legality of having a voting member of the board who had was charged with representing the interest of the entire state in approving the business of the CAEA.

    I could go on, and on, but if you would like more information contact me at 324-7140. We have been fighting this thing since 2009. I will be happy to meet with you at your convenience.

    Bob Watts.

  2. Thanks Bob. I would love to see the comprehensive response. I too have questioned the legality of how the CAEA can continue to function when 3 of the 5 members have resigned and they cannot appoint replacements.

  3. Sandra Earles says:

    Mayor Kip Holden has a symbiotic relationship in the LOOP project with his assistant Rannah Gray. Gray is also principal of Marmillion Gray Media, the public relations firm that represents HNTB and the America Wetlands Foundation. This was a case of blatant contract funneling.

    HNTB gets paid by governmental agencies to draw the maps that cause upset among citizens, they subcontract with Marmillion Gray Media.

    Marmillion Gray Media is paid to conduct public input sessions regarding the LOOP,

    Marmillion Gray Media then creates false press releases that proclaim public demand for an environmental impact study.

    America Wetlands Foundation, a non profit founded by the owners of Marmillion Gray Media gets grant money to task their members to do environmental impact studies in droves.

    The firm chosen to do the study will report the “findings” and will be used to OK elements of a project, but must first be sent back to the engineer to tweak.

    Lather , rinse, repeat.

  4. Darla Steagall says:

    Oh my!
    Guess this is my fault.
    The letter was sent to get the word out about the loop after I told Congressman Graves that we needed help to reach people to let them know the loop was not dead. We notified news media and others but I initiated the help from Graves. I told him people need to know where to send in their comments. He encourages people to comment in his letter.
    The second part of his letter is to inform the public that the bill that had passed through congress in December was signed by the president and should help us fund a few projects but the loop is not one of them. Congressman Graves is emphatically against the loop. In conversation with him, he has said the CAEA cannot do anything without the other three members who resigned. It is basically dead. But, in following protocol , we still need to send in the comments as it states. We wouldn’t want someone to pick it up in the next few years and think the people who live in Livingston parish, had no more concerns or were no longer opposed. So, we are sending everything we can get and next month when we receive the next Teir, we need to send in our comments again. There should be nothing else after that.
    I’m sorry that has confused a lot of people but I requested his help in getting the word out.
    Darla Steagall

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