Panel Recommends $700M a Year More for Louisiana Transportation System
BATON ROUGE, LA A task force that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards created to study the state's transportation infrastructure needs has issued a call for putting $700 million more each year into multimodal transportation investments.
Shawn Wilson, Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, co-chairs the 18-member panel of lawmakers, regional economic development representatives and industry officials. It will prepare a formal report to the governor by the end of the year. The other co-chair is John Basilica, Vice President and Gulf Coast District Leader for engineering and construction management firm HNTB.
But in advance of that report, the task force unanimously adopted 10 resolutions that recommend imposing tolls, raising fuel taxes plus special truck permit and registration fees, wooing private investment and other measures. Such actions would need to win passage by the Louisiana State Legislature if Edwards opts to formally propose them.
"Most notably," a DOTD announcement said, "the task force has determined that an annual increase of $700 million for transportation is necessary' to both finance major projects across Louisiana "˜and to better serve all users of the transportation system in both urban and rural areas of the state. The other resolutions establish a thoughtful framework within which to generate and strategically invest the new revenue."
Wilson noted that President-elect Donald Trump's plans to sharply increase infrastructure investment mean that "state action to raise revenue for transportation is even more critical."
In general, federally aided highway projects require a 20 percent state match, while project grants may require leveraging larger amounts of state or local funds. "Louisiana is not prepared to participate fully in new federal funding opportunities strictly due to limited revenue needed to successfully compete, match and draw down additional federal funds," Wilson said.
The DOTD said that Louisiana has a "more than $13 billion backlog in state highway and bridge needs, plus another $16 billion is needed to address bigger projects" outlined in a statewide transportation plan.
"The average driver in Louisiana only pays $108 per year in state gas tax, which has lost purchasing power every year since it was last adjusted in 1990," Wilson said. "It takes funding to construct the dozens of key projects that are needed to improve safety, address congestion and facilitate economic development across the State. The time has come to do something about it. We can't afford to standby any longer."