How Long Before You Can't Get There From Here?

Mar 31, 2017

“Our highway needs over the next 30 years will equate to about $26.8-billion. Our bridge needs? Over $9-billion over the next 30 years,” Louisiana DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson told a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday.

Noting that’s on top of the current $13-billion backlog of transportation projects, Dr. Wilson also warns Louisiana won’t be able to take advantage of President Trump’s promised $1-trillion federal investment in transportation infrastructure projects without a major injection of revenue.

“We do not have a capacity to take advantage of any presidential package after this year,” Wilson told state lawmakers.

That’s because the 20-cents-per-gallon state gasoline tax –which has been the same for 27 years – has been eroded by inflation.

“44 states have increased their transportation investment more recently than Louisiana, while we’ve lost 56% of the value of what we pay. And as a result, we’ve got the 8th worst pavement condition and the 3rd worst bridge condition in the country.”

State fuel taxes are the primary source for the match to draw down federal highway dollars, which are basically refunding what state residents pay in federal fuel taxes.

“That 18.4 cents you pay? That is what we would be leaving on the table, without additional revenue,” Wilson said.

Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger asked the $50-billion question: “How do we not get left behind?”

“I think the answer is doing what the Transportation Task Force recommended – a sustainable revenue source indexed to keep up with the cost of inflation,” the DOTD Secretary said.

The Task Force recommended raising an additional $700-million for roadwork, and said that raising the state gasoline tax was the most reliable way to generate the funds. Governor John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that while he is not recommending any specific gasoline tax hike, he expects several legislators will file legislation for that purpose.

“I will support any proposal that is consistent with the Transportation Task Force,” the governor said.