Plank-Nicholson BRT moves forward with foundational agreements in place

Nov. 30, 2020
The first bus rapid transit line in Baton Rouge (and the state of Louisiana) will connect north and south Baton Rouge with high-frequency service.

The Plank-Nicholson Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line moved a step closer to reality with the signing of a series of cooperative endeavor agreements (CEA) between state, municipal and transit stakeholders that provides a foundation for funding and implementing the project that will bring high-frequency service connecting north and south Baton Rouge, La.  

The nine-mile BRT project 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 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 Capital Area Transit System (CATS) CEO Bill Deville. “We are excited to continue working closely with our local, state, regional and federal partners get this project moving toward construction.”

Prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study of the project found more than 29,000 residents and 30,000 Louisiana State University students lived within a half-mile of the proposed route. Additionally, 85 percent of those located within a half-mile were minority residents, 34 percent were identified as persons in poverty and 18 percent were households without a vehicle.

“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 Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston 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 city of Baton Rouge – Parish of East Baton Rouge (city-parish) says the two agreements “reflect the complex and unprecedented partnerships formed to leverage local, state and federal funding toward the $53.6 million BRT project.”

The first CEA between the city-parish and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) confirms the transfer of $13 million to the city-parish from DOTD for improvements along the BRT corridor. 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.

“This project exemplifies the important work that can be done in the spirit of strong collaboration and cooperation among agencies,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson. “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.”

Baton Rouge was awarded a $15-million Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant in November 2019 for the project. It was one of 10 projects awarded funds from the highly competitive grant program in FY19 award round.

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.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.