BATON ROUGE, La. — Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 — Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Capital Area Transit System CEO Bill Deville and Build Baton Rouge CEO Chris Tyson announced $15 million in discretionary federal grant funding for the Plank Road to Nicholson Drive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
The grant, according to U.S. Representative Garret Graves, will be awarded to the City-Parish by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao through the Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Grants program. The program supports road, rail, transit and port infrastructure projects across the country.
The project will be the first BRT project in Louisiana and serve as a central spine to the region’s transit system. The nine-mile route will stretch across Baton Rouge by providing high-quality, high-frequency, and high-capacity transit service connecting North Baton Rouge, downtown and the Louisiana State University campus.
“This major federal investment in Baton Rouge transit is the result of deliberate and thoughtful transit planning, our community’s strong desire for vital transportation linkages between our neighborhoods, and a demonstration of our willingness to maximize federal funds to implement a transformational transportation project,” said Mayor-President Broome.
The anticipated $40.2 million project will feature enhanced transit stations with real-time information including bus arrival times and level boarding, unique branded vehicles and other enhancements designed to make the transit line attractive to existing and prospective riders. The project is slated to include a new bus transfer center along Airline Highway near the Our Lady of the Lake North Emergency Room, 22 pairs of stations and a layover facility at the southern terminus. Additional corridor infrastructure improvements will enhance connectivity to stations, improve pedestrian safety, provide ADA compliance, streamline traffic and transit operations, and enhance operational effectiveness of the BRT project.
The $15 million federal grant represents 37 percent of the project’s anticipated total capital cost. The City-Parish, in partnership with CATS, intends to leverage other funding sources for a portion of the remaining 63 percent, specifically for non-bus and transit station elements of the project. These include: City-Parish transit-specific federal formula funds, federal and state safety enhancement funds, Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) “Road Transfer” funds dedicated to Plank Road and Nicholson Drive and MOVEBR funds dedicated to Plank Road and Florida Boulevard for roadway, sidewalk and traffic signal upgrades along the route. CATS has pledged $7 million of the agency’s annually-allocated federal transit formula funds for transit-specific elements of the project such as buses and stations.
While the City-Parish will be the recipient of the federal grant and will oversee the planning, design and construction of the BRT project, the City-Parish and CATS will execute a cooperative endeavor agreement outlining agency roles and responsibilities during all project phases including transfer of the completed project to CATS for operation.
“The unique confluence of available local funding to match the federal dollars coupled with the synergy of the recently-completed Plank Road corridor master plan and major development downtown and along the Nicholson Drive corridor made this BUILD Grant application extremely competitive,” said Bill Deville, CEO of CATS. “The strong partnership between the City-Parish, CATS, Build Baton Rouge and other supporting stakeholders for this project — more than 40 who signed letters of support for the application — should serve as a shining example for future infrastructure projects in Baton Rouge. We are fortunate at CATS to have a vibrant relationship not only with our local partners, but our FTA Region VI officials as well.
“We look forward to the implementation of this Plank-Nicholson BRT, as it will serve as the blueprint to realize the greater future BRT network CATS is planning along the major corridors of the City-Parish. This network can only be realized with the continued collaboration of our local, state, regional and federal partners,” said Deville.
The Plank Road to Nicholson Drive BRT project will expand local and regional mobility options, improve job access, support transit-oriented development (TOD) and enhance livability along the corridor. The project will connect governmental centers, colleges and universities, commercial centers, the downtown business district, medical facilities and residents along Plank Road, Florida Street and Nicholson Drive urban arterials.
The BRT project serves as a centerpiece of the recently-unveiled “Imagine Plank Road” corridor master plan for the Plank Road corridor, a project led by the redevelopment organization Build Baton Rouge.
“From the outset we knew that transit-oriented development was essential in our efforts to revitalize disinvested areas like the Plank Road corridor,” said Chris Tyson, CEO of Build Baton Rouge. “The BUILD grant and the BRT system it will support is a game-changer for this community. We now have a powerful story of our ability to work together towards innovative solutions to address not only urban transit needs, but broader equitable development goals.”