BATON ROUGE, LA –Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome today joined Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D.; Capital Area Transit System CEO Bill Deville; and Build Baton Rouge CEO Chris Tyson as the agencies entered into a series of cooperative endeavor agreements that form the foundation for funding and implementation of the Plank-Nicholson Bus Rapid Transit project (BRT).
These agreements reflect the complex and unprecedented partnerships formed to leverage local, state and federal funding toward the $53.6 million BRT project, which will connect north and south Baton Rouge with high-frequency transit service.
“The Plank Nicholson Bus Rapid Transit project will make Baton Rouge more accessible for all of our residents by expanding local and regional mobility options. With increased mobility and access to transportation, our residents will reap the benefits of improved job access, support transit-oriented development and enhanced livability throughout this corridor,” said Mayor Broome. “Not only will it serve as the spine of our transit system, but this project serves as the foundation of the Plank Road Masterplan, by serving as the catalyst for redevelopment of the historic North Baton Rouge corridor.”
The first CEA between the City-Parish and DOTD confirms the transfer of $13 million to the City-Parish from DOTD for improvements along the BRT corridor. Funding sources include approximately $7.4 million in DOTD Road Transfer funds, $1.6 million for improvements to Florida Street between 10th Street and 22nd Street, and $4 million for traffic signal upgrades at more than 15 intersections along the project corridor.
“This project exemplifies the important work that can be done in the spirit of strong collaboration and cooperation among agencies,” Wilson said. “When working together, our agencies and collective resources can implement major infrastructure initiatives like this BRT project, delivering a greater impact to our communities than any one of us would be able to do alone.”
The second CEA between the City-Parish and CATS pledges the cooperation between entities to fund the, design, construction and operation of the project. The CEA obligates CATS to contribute $9.6 million in federal formula funds for the construction costs of the new North Transfer Center, along with the procurement of the BRT vehicles and 22 pairs of stations along the route.
“The BRT service will be designed and operated to fully integrate into the CATS transit network to provide a quality transit experience connecting to major destinations throughout the city,” said Deville. “We are excited to continue working closely with our local, state, regional and federal partners get this project moving toward construction.”
In November 2019, the City of Baton Rouge was awarded a highly competitive $15 million grant for the BRT project from the Federal Transit Administration’s Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) program. Federal officials cite the partnerships in place and the substantial contribution of local matching funds provided by CATS and DOTD as important factors that contributed to Baton Rouge securing the grant funds.
The 9-mile BRT corridor will provide a new transit route with high-quality service connecting educational institutions, the Water Campus, the downtown business district, medical facilities, commercial businesses and residential neighborhoods along Plank Road, Florida Street and Nicholson Drive. The BRT investment is anticipated to spur revitalization activities similar to those occurring along Government Street as the multimodal transportation improvements along that corridor near completion.
The environmental clearance and preliminary engineering phases of the project are complete and approved. With the CEAs executed, the agencies will now develop final design plans. Construction is anticipated to begin early 2022 with service anticipated to begin in mid-2024.