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Joint Transportation Committee: Beginnings and Endings

Amy Jeffries

When the legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee met Thursday, it was farewell for the two leaders: Senator Robert Adley of Benton and Representative Karen St. Germain of Plaquemine:

“Senator, if I may, I just want to thank you and the chairlady for you-all’s hard work on the Transportation Committee for the last 4 years,” Rep. Terry Landry of New Iberia said, prompting applause from all the members.

Both Adley and St. Germain were term-limited this year. Yet their final meeting also saw the start of a pilot to get construction projects going, despite Louisiana’s cash-strapped status.

“There’s a lot riding on y’all’s shoulders with these projects,” Adley told those asking for authorization to start their projects. “This is the first time we’ve ever done this,”

Louisiana faces a $12-billion backlog of construction projects, so in 2014 the Legislature okayed hiring a single contractor to design and build urgently-needed projects, rather than using the more cumbersome, lengthy and expensive method of bidding out the design, then bidding out the construction later. The 2014 rule was only for projects costing more than $25-million. This past spring, Senator Gary Smith of Norco got the limits lowered, to try smaller projects.

“In order to see if this actually works, we need to lower it to a 3 million-dollar threshold,” Smith said, when asking for votes on his bill. The smaller projects pilot program was aslo described as a “test drive of design-build”.

Approved Thursday were those first two smaller projects; construction of a new conveyor at the Port of Lake Charles, and a new pump station and drainage system in St. Mary Parish.

“This project will reduce the risk of flood for approximately 12-thousand residents in Morgan City,” Brian Grubb, an attorney with the drainage district explained.

Adley, as he has so often in his 30-plus years in the legislature, summed it up perfectly.

“Good luck with it, and we wish you the best, so do it well.”