Louisiana’s House and Senate Transportation committees have spent the past couple of weeks on the road, seeing and hearing firsthand what needs to be done around the state.
“What we heard loud and clear was the locals really know what they need, and if you can’t get it done then let us do it. Let us get a local option,” Joint Transportation chair Page Cortez said.
And when the group returned to home base in Baton Rouge for a hearing this week, Senator Cortez urged DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson to share the one bit of good news regarding project funding.
“You had mentioned in a number of the meetings about the redistribution of the federal dollars, and I think it’s important for people to know what’s going on with regards to that, so if you could just touch on that/” Cortez asked
“Sure. We were able to achieve about $60-million in redistributed funds,” Wilson said, smiling. “And it does require match, and it does require additional investment and effort on behalf of the state and our private sector.”
Wilson further explained the $60.8 million is federal highway money other states weren’t able to spend, but Louisiana can put to good use.
“We’ve closed – just this year – about 47 bridges, and so we’re accelerating bridges, because that’s our challenge,” he said of the projects slated to benefit from the added funding
Some committee members asked why the money wasn’t being used for interstate highway work, instead. Wilson says it’s not enough.
“Lake Charles, Lafayette, New Orleans, Baton Rouge – there’s no community short of a mega-project upwards of a150 million,” Wilson responded. “When we get small amounts of money, we can make a difference. And when we get large amounts of money, we can make a difference.”
But, with a $13-billion backlog of road and bridge needs,Wilson reminded them, “We’ve got a wheelbarrow full of needs and a thimbleful of money.”