It’s been 17 years since the installation of road signs hopefully proclaiming U.S. 90 through Lafayette as the “Future Corridor” of Interstate 49.
City-parish government launched an effort Tuesday to make sure the planned Interstate 49 Connector through Lafayette does more good than harm.
The state Department of Transportation and Development in October began gathering public input for the design of the mostly elevated 5.5-mile stretch of interstate through Lafayette, a road project that has been discussed for decades.
Letters: We can’t miss the chance to create a better infrastructure – vote ‘yes’ on Constitutional Amendment No. 2
Last week, approximately 60 Acadiana business and civic leaders traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to meet with their counterparts on One Acadiana’s inaugural Leadership Exchange trip. We returned home with many good ideas and have an immediate opportunity to apply one of them by voting “yes” on Constitutional Amendment No. 2.
Charleston is an iconic city with a deep history, rich culture, and strong regional connectivity in infrastructure and mindset. A key to accelerating and managing the growth of the Charleston metro area has been its focus on transportation infrastructure.
DOTD announces progress on major section of I-49 South
LAFAYETTE – The I-49 South Coalition celebrated the Department of Transportation and Development’s (DOTD) announcement that the Lafayette Connector is entering the next planning and design phase. The announcement comes as part of DOTD’s larger Geaux South program, a $3 billion, multi-year construction initiative to convert the current U.S. 90 highway to I-49 South, connecting Lafayette to New Orleans.
The I-49 Lafayette Connector will upgrade to interstate standards the 5.5-mile stretch of U.S. 90, running south from I-10 to just beyond Lafayette Regional Airport. More than 100 of the planned 160 miles of I-49 South are complete or currently under construction, making the Lafayette Connector a critical section in completing I-49 South.
David Mann, Chairman of the I-49 South Coalition, said, “Given Louisiana’s $12 billion backlog in infrastructure projects, it has been historically difficult to secure funding for I-49 South. Launching the next design process for one of the most expensive segments – the Lafayette Connector – is an important step forward for our community. It is time to complete this decades-long initiative so that our children and grandchildren can benefit from this significant future asset.”
I-49 South Coalition members, representing a cross section of business and community leaders across south Louisiana, stressed the importance of alleviating traffic along U.S. 90, parts of which are handling more than one and a half times their planned daily capacity.
“When completed, the I-49 Lafayette Connector will remove a serious traffic bottleneck in this corridor,” said Mart Black, Senior Planner with Providence and I-49 South Coalition board member. “It is a major step in making travel to and from the southern reaches of the I-49 corridor safer and faster for businesses and families.”
Bringing the current U.S. 90 highway up to interstate standards will greatly improve a vital national link to “America’s Energy Corridor” while providing substantial benefits in terms of economic development, safety, evacuation, and traffic congestion relief. Top executives continue to rank a good highway system as the No. 1 or No. 2 most important factor when expanding, relocating, or starting a new business.
Kam Movassaghi, former Secretary of DOTD and I-49 South Coalition member, said, “Completing I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans must remain a top priority for Louisiana. I-49 South is a game-changing investment, offering large economic benefits, improved hurricane evacuation, and better connectivity for families along the corridor.”
Given the need to integrate the connector into the Lafayette’s urban core and address community concerns, planning for the connector will incorporate a Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) approach to focus on the project’s impact and mitigate any adverse effects. Over the next 18 months, various stakeholders, including members of the general public, will participate in the CSS process with the goal of achieving a collaborative conceptual design for the I-49 Lafayette Connector.
A Community Working Group (CWG) will be a primary vehicle for public participation in design charrettes, neighborhood walkabouts, educational forums, public meetings and workshops. The design consultants will maintain a project office at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center to ensure broad public engagement.
|For Immediate Release||October 2, 2015|
I-49 South Coalition Supports Constitutional Amendments No. 1 and No. 2
The I-49 South Coalition supports adoption of Constitutional Amendments No. 1 and No. 2 in order to create greater funding options and flexibility for transportation infrastructure projects.
David Mann, Chairman of the I-49 South Coalition, said, “Given our state’s nearly $12 billion backlog in infrastructure projects, it is critical we take a look at innovative ways to fund existing and new infrastructure projects. These amendments offer sound policy options at a time when additional funding is desperately needed.”
On October 24, 2015, Louisiana’s voters will be given the opportunity to advance the state’s aging transportation infrastructure. The I-49 South Coalition encourages voters to vote ‘YES’ on Amendments No. 1 and No. 2.
If adopted, Amendment No. 1 (Act No. 473) would:
- Rename the current Budget Stabilization Fund, “rainy day fund”, as the Budget and Transportation Stabilization Fund with two sub-funds for the budget and transportation
- Direct excess state mineral revenues to the stabilization sub-funds for budget and transportation
- Establish a $500 million cap for each stabilization sub-fund (effectively removing the 4 percent cap on the current Budget Stabilization Fund)
- Direct the Transportation Stabilization sub-fund to be used only for transportation improvement projects
Doug Place, CAO of Dupre Logistics, LLC and I-49 South Coalition board member, commented, “Thousands of Louisiana businesses rely on adequate infrastructure to conduct their daily operations. These amendments will allow our community to make strategic and lasting investments in our highways.”
If adopted, Amendment No. 2 (Act No. 471) would:
- Authorize the state treasurer to invest existing, idle state funds into the Louisiana State Transportation Infrastructure Bank created in 2015.
Kam Movassaghi, former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development stated, “As an active member of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, I am pleased to see the I-49 South Coalition taking a strong stance in support of Amendments No. 1 and No. 2. We need all groups concerned about Louisiana’s economy and safety to come together to support these initiatives.”
Click here to learn more about these proposed amendments.
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BROUSSARD – The completion of the I-49 South Corridor was the focus of One Acadiana’s final installment of its conference Thursday at Billeaud Companies.
The remaining cost of the project, which would transform the 160-mile stretch of U.S. 90 from Lafayette to New Orleans into an interstate, is about $3 billion.
That’s the project’s biggest hurdle, One Acadiana President and CEO Jason El Koubi said.
But efforts to complete the corridor “one bite at a time” are underway, its advocates said Thursday.
One Acadiana officials were joined by representatives of Billeaud Co., Schilling Distribution, state lawmakers and the I-49 South Coalition, which is now housed within One Acadiana.
As the fourth and final installment of the regional chamber’s “Priorities for a Better Acadiana” series, the organization emphasized that the completion of I-49 South is its top priority.
“U.S. 90 was not designed to handle the amount of traffic it now supports,” said Kam Movassaghi, former secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development. “Parts of U.S. 90 are currently handling more than one and a half times their daily capacity.”
Transforming U.S. 90 into a major corridor could also boost economic growth in South Louisiana by attracting oil and gas industry expansion. It would also improve hurricane evacuation, officials said.
Although funding is scarce for the project, it should be in the forefront of the priority list for state and federal lawmakers, I-49 South Coalition Chairman David Mann said. There’s already $12 billion worth of infrastructure projects in the state’s backlog.
“Roughly $3 billion is required to complete I-49 South alone,” Mann said. “Completing I-49 South and reducing the state’s backlog is going to be a heavy lift, requiring roughly $500 million to $1 billion per year in net additional funding for state transportation infrastructure for the next decade.”
Moody’s Investors Services has given Louisiana a favorable Aa3 rating on $73.7 million in unclaimed property revenue bonds that will be used to continue work on completing Interstate 49 South, State Treasurer John Kennedy said in an issued statement Thursday.
Kennedy said he intends to sell some $70 million to $80 million in bonds, probably within the next few weeks. He said his office is waiting for additional credit ratings to arrive, including one from Standard & Poor’s, in order to bolster the state’s financial reputation and lower the interest the state will pay. He said S&P may respond within the next few days, perhaps as early as Friday, but he cautioned that the ratings services operate independently; there’s no guarantee S&P will issue a favorable report.
“This is a victory for the citizens of Louisiana,” Kennedy said of Moody’s assessment, which came Thursday. “Moody’s could have downgraded us, but they didn’t. They have left us on negative credit watch, and Moody’s is giving new leadership time to fix our problems.” Louisiana will hold state elections on Oct. 24.
Kennedy said he asked Moody’s not to lower the state’s credit rating, which he said was a possibility.
“Moody’s kept us on a negative credit watch,” he said, “but they aren’t going to downgrade us. They will wait for new leadership in Baton Rouge: a new governor, a new Legislature and new officials.
“We had all four wheels in the ditch,” Kennedy said of the state’s fiscal situation. “The Legislature got one wheel out. The next administration deserves a chance to fix this.”
Kristy Nichols, commissioner of administration, was more upbeat about the state’s finances.
“Today’s affirmation from Moody’s reflects that we made concrete progress in structurally balancing the state’s budget. I’m confident that the outlook will improve in the future as the ratings agencies see that we have been responsive in addressing their concerns,” she said in an issued statement.
Louisiana’s bond sale will finance construction on portions of I-49 South, a top priority locally for One Acadiana and, before it, for the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. Excess annual collections from the unclaimed property program pay the debt service on the bonds without anyone losing unclaimed property money, Kennedy said.
As treasurer, Kennedy is authorized by the Legislature to sell up to $200 million in bonds for the highway financing; his office sold $113 million in December 2013. Eighty million dollars more would keep him within the Legislature’s limit. Kennedy said that the bonds are usually purchased by large institutional investors like Fidelity Investments or Goldman Sachs, although some individuals buy government bonds.
In its summary rating rationale, Moody’s noted that Louisiana’s credit rating reflects “continued budget gaps due to underperforming revenues; the use of nonrecurring resources to plug budget gaps; the ongoing slump in the oil and gas markets, and; the challenges the state faces in dealing with rising Medicaid and fixed costs.”
To the good, Moody’s noted the state made progress in narrowing its budget imbalance for 2016 and revenues generated by its recent share of the $18.7 billion settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident.
“There is no denying that Louisiana has serious budget issues. Moody’s noticed that we’re budgeting too much nonrecurring money and not doing anything about our runaway pension liability,” Kennedy said. “We asked Moody’s not to downgrade us and to give the next governor and Legislature time to fix the problems. I’m thankful that Moody’s listened.”
Nichols said the report notes that the fiscal 2016 budget closed a gap of about $1.6 billion by increasing recurring revenues, reducing the use of one-time funding sources to about $550 million and implementing cost savings.