By Stacey Tinsley, BIZ. Magazine
Wednesday marked a milestone in the long awaited I-20 and I-220 Barksdale Air Force Base Interchange in Bossier City.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD), Barksdale Air Force Base (BAFB) and local government officials celebrated the completion of the I-20/I-220 BAFB Interchange project with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Bossier Parish Community College.
“When you look at the strategic importance of Barksdale to the nation and the economic importance of Barksdale to this region and to the state, this is a very very good investment for the state to make,” said Governor Edwards.
The $80.5 million I-20/I-220 Barksdale Air Force Base Interchange project will provide a roadway with new access to the military installation extending southward from the existing interstate interchange in Bossier City.
The purpose of the project, which had been listed as a priority for several decades but never had adequate funding or environmental clearance until ground was broken in May of 2019, is to deliver a brand new entrance into BAFB that doesn’t contend with having to cross a railroad track. It will also serve to greatly enhance security, with all commercial deliveries eventually using the new gate.
Currently, all other BAFB entrances are intersected by train tracks and are blocked if a train is on the track. This potentially creates significant traffic congestion and an overall inconvenience for those attempting to access or exit BAFB.
“We just can’t get on the base without crossing a railroad track. So, it delays you, it delays us and this is going to be a fantastic answer to that,” said Col. Scott Weyermuller, BAFB installation commander.
The interchange still will not be open for a while, though. Col. Weyermuller also said that BAFB is starting work on the new gate entrance into Barksdale immediately and he hopes that the gate will be completed by February 2024. Once complete, the new gate will connect with the I-20/I-220 interchange.
The project is vital to the continued successful operation of BAFB, which is one of the largest employers in the northwest Louisiana region with more than 6,600 active duty and reservist military personnel, along with another 5,100 employed civilians and contractors.
The new access road and gate will pave the way for the base to proceed with planned improvements and developments of its own that will be accessed via the new entrance. It will also take into account projected population growth and increased traffic counts, improving access times for Barksdale employees and their families and providing easier commutes to schools and other local attractions.
Once complete, the interchange and access project will promote an improved quality of life for base residents and employees, along with modernized transportation security measures for BAFB’s mission.
“I do want to thank the members of the legislative delegation. And, I do want to call out former State Senator Ryan Gatti because he was a senator here and he was the first person to really impress upon me, from a local perspective, how important this project would be,” Edwards added.