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More Transportation Infrastructure Will Require More Investment

Frank Barnett

“The only hole we’re going to fill with new dollars in transportation is a pothole,” Shawn Wilson, Governor-elect John Bel Edwards’ pick for state Transportation Secretary told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

Wilson made it clear that the $12-billion backlog in roadwork means money dedicated to transportation infrastructure can no longer be siphoned off for other uses. He also said reducing the backlog is going to require a hike in fuel taxes.

“DOTD does not receive any general funds from the state, so our entire budget is based on the gas tax, and it’s based on federal matching dollars,” Wilson, who is the current DOTD chief of staff, reminded reporters. “The most important thing is that if you don’t have the dollars at the state level to make the match, none of it will come.”

Wilson also gave a rundown of the top four priority projects for the new administration:

“Providing relief on the I-10 corridor east and west of the bridge here in Baton Rouge, and an improved interchange at the I-10 and Loyola in New Orleans, as the city builds another billion dollar terminal.”

That’s the exit to New Orleans airport, which Wilson notes is already one of the largest airports along the Gulf Coast.

Additionally, the soon-to-be DOTD Secretary says continuing work on I-49 south from Lafayette is a must.

“We won’t get the full value of that investment that the nation has made, that the state has made, that the bond community has made, without finishing I-49 South.”

The next administration also wants to prep for high speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and along the I-20 corridor in north Louisiana. Yet Wilson warns will take more than one or two years to get rolling.

“But there’s some things that we can do to get the planning process moving, to get components of it done, to make it easier to build when the resources are there to make that happen.”

In the meantime, Wilson says, some small manageable projects all around the state are targeted for improving the quality of life and transportation for Louisiana residents.

The John Bel Edwards administration takes office next Monday.