BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Jimmie Davis Bridge in South Bossier could find a new life as a state park, thanks to the latest development is the ongoing discussion about whether to replace, repair, or re-purpose the aging span over the Red River in South Bossier.
That’s according to Bossier Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Johnson, who told the Bossier Parish Police Jury Wednesday afternoon that she had confirmed with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser that the state would be open to taking the old bridge as a state park.
Last month, officials from both parishes met with the Department of Transportation and Development to talk about options on spending $150 million set aside for a bridge project. The existing 53-year-old, two-lane structure could either be replaced by a new four-lane bridge with a biking trail or rehabilitated with a new two-lane bridge built alongside.
A third option would see a new four-lane bridge constructed with the old structure rehabilitated as a park only for bikers and pedestrians. For local public bodies, the issue is who would be responsible for maintenance.
“The Lt. Gov. said he would be willing to sit down and have a conversation about this,” Johnson said. “He said where operating costs and maintenance are concerned, we would figure that out if the locals could take care of the trash. I believe it’s a conversation to be had.”
Such a solution would ease some of the concerns surrounding the operation and maintenance costs that would otherwise be left to local governments.
Johnson said Nungesser is working hard to connect all walking and biking trails in the state. A linear park here would not only be the first in Louisiana, but it would also mean the area could have one of the largest networks of such trails in the state.
“That’s good news and it’s a viable alternative. I’m glad to see it’s getting some legs,” Jury President Tom Salzer said. “But it’s hard to ask the parishes and cities to pick up the liability plus operating and maintenance costs. I’m not against it but we have limited budget money.”
Salzer told KTAL NBC 6 News that the police jury is still trying to come up with an affordable, long-term plan.
“A lot of our decisions are not short term but long term,” he said. “We have to look at how that’s going to affect the parish thirty, forty, fifty years from now.”
Still, Salzer said he would be willing to go to Baton Rouge and meet with the lieutenant governor to discuss all the options.
“I’ll certainly make the extra effort because it’s worth a conversation,” he said. “We don’t want to be the cause of south Bossier not getting a bridge they’ve deserved for years.”
There is no date set yet for such a meeting with Nungesser, but Salzer says progress is being made.