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The Bridge Watch:  " News " "W. Feliciana jury opposes Miss. bridge route"
by By JAMES MINTON -Baker-Zachary bureau
Morning Advocate Published on 5/9/01

ST. FRANCISVILLE -- West Feliciana Parish police jurors voted 6-1 Tuesday to oppose the Zachary Taylor Parkway Commission’s continuing effort to persuade state officials to put a proposed Mississippi River bridge at St. Francisville, rather than south of town.

Jury President Bert Babers said the state agency and an affiliated private support group, the Zachary Taylor Parkway Association, consider West Feliciana Parish opposition to the northern bridge corridor -- through St. Francisville and across the southern tip of the Cat Island Swamp -- as harmful to their economic development goals.

The groups want the bridge to be part of a new four-lane highway following La. 1 and La. 10 from Alexandria, through New Roads and St. Francisville, to Interstate 59 east of Bogalusa.

"They really don’t understand why you don’t want all that noise and dust in your back yard," Babers told the crowd that packed the jury’s meeting room.

"They have some very nice people on that commission, but they also have some experienced politicians," Babers said, adding the commission "is about to alienate us."

The jury voted earlier this year to tell state highway officials it cannot support the more northern of two proposed routes for the bridge because of its potential harm to the town’s historic ambiance.

Babers said he put the discussion back on Tuesday’s agenda because the parkway group is pushing legislation that would allow the state Department of Transportation and Development to buy land at La. 10 and U.S. 61, near the entrance to the Rosedown State Historic Site.

Historic preservationists are fighting an effort by the current owner, Gene Slivka, to rezone the corner property for commercial development. Slivka sold Rosedown to the state last year for $5.7 million.

Another state purchase would eliminate concerns about commercial development of the property, but Babers said the offer and vague promises to "do something for our riverfront" amount to "a carrot."

In return, West Feliciana Parish would have to drop its opposition to the northern bridge corridor, he said.

Don Browning, West Feliciana’s representative on the parkway commission, said he was the only opponent to the northern route on the panel.

The Legislature is considering House Bill 1712 by Rep. Ben W. Nevers, D-Bogalusa, that would allow DOTD to pay up to $2 million for land, at the request of the Zachary Taylor Parkway Commission, with 80 percent of the money coming from federal funds.

The bill passed the House on a 95-0 vote April 30 and is pending in the Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.

Babers said the bill was amended in a House committee to require the concurrence of the state senator and state representative in whose districts the land is located.

Rep. Tom McVea, R-St. Francisville, said he is opposed to the northern route as long as the people in his home parish continue to oppose it.

Juror John Cobb argued that the jury should consider the feelings of residents and police jurors in neighboring East Feliciana and Pointe Coupee parishes. Many of them support the St. Francisville bridge corridor, he said.

"There are some loud people in favor of it, but not the majority," replied parish resident Charles Griffin II.

"Do we stand up to the parkway?" Babers asked the audience, which responded affirmatively.

Babers, Cobb, Toni McVea, E.R. "Butch" Jones, John Roach and Billy Shoemake voted for a resolution directed to the commission and reaffirming the jury’s stance on a proposed route.

Otis Wilson cast the lone dissenting vote.

"I’ll deliver the message first thing in the morning," Browning said.

West Feliciana Citizens BridgeWatch