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.
For the full article, click here
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.
Greater Baton Rouge Business Report – I-49 South has been in the works for decades. But the $3 billion project is coming together, mile by mile.
The signs are still there, strung along U.S. 90 in Lafayette, hinting at an impending interstate that will someday connect the Hub City to the Crescent City. “Future I-49 Corridor,” they read.
These signs are nothing new. I-49 South has been in the works since 1987. So after all these years, what is the status of the proposed interstate corridor? Has the initiative died off or is it still moving forward?
The Department of Transportation and Development says the project is, in fact, alive and well. Over the years, I-49 South has gradually progressed piece by piece. Today the future corridor is more than 50% complete, and several groups, businesses and legislators have gotten behind the push to finish the project.
I-49 South, known as the “Energy Corridor,” comprises the final, 160-mile leg of the interstate that runs along what is now U.S. 90 from Lafayette to New Orleans. Much of the intended route, an estimated 100 miles, is already up to interstate standards, but about 60 miles remain undone, including pricey portions through Lafayette and from Raceland to New Orleans.
“There has been plenty of work done,” says David Mann, chairman of the I-49 South Coalition, a group of business owners who advocate for the funding and completion of the corridor. “You gotta have faith.”
Mann and other proponents say the future corridor will significantly benefit not only Acadiana, but the entire state, by enhancing economic development, increasing safety, reducing travel times and providing an alternate hurricane evacuation route.
“Safety is number one,” says Doug Place, executive vice president of Dupre Logistics, a trucking services company based in Lafayette with locations around the country.
Place says the company’s truck drivers often travel from I-10 in Lafayette to New Iberia, where a number of accidents occur. Having an interstate to travel on, instead of U.S. 90 with traffic and stoplights, would greatly reduce risks and provide a safer, more efficient commute.
Another justification for I-49 South is that it gives commuters driving from Lafayette to New Orleans another route to take instead of I-10, which is infamous for its traffic delays on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and when entering Baton Rouge. Place also stressed the importance of I-49 as an alternate hurricane evacuation route.
(Click on map to enlarge)
A BUSINESS PRIORITY
The benefits of the future corridor are clear, but the project has been a long time coming, and people may have lost faith in it along the way. Yet, there seems to be reason for hope again.
“People had been discouraged until about a year ago, but there’s been a renewed interest,” Place says. “By legislators introducing and passing bills, they’re saying it’s time to pay attention to our infrastructure.”
Securing funds for projects like I-49 South is often what holds up the construction process, but proponents say government officials are beginning to recognize the need for the corridor and looking at ways to fund it.
“Both at the federal and state level, we need transportation funding solutions,” says Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of One Acadiana, formerly the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. “Many, many places including Acadiana have had to wait too long for critical infrastructure projects.”
As head of One Acadiana, El Koubi has had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of business owners across Acadiana who have told him I-49 South is a top priority for them. In response, One Acadiana has made the future corridor its top priority as well.
The organization is working to sustain momentum, get the word out and accelerate funding and design plans for I-49 South. Members are also collaborating with gubernatorial candidates to put their support behind the project.
El Koubi says the corridor will have a huge economic impact, especially for the state’s the oil and gas industry as these products are frequently transported along the route, and it will increase tourism in Louisiana by providing a “more robust linkage” between two major tourist areas: New Orleans and Acadiana.
The entirety of I-49 South will cost an estimated $3 billion, says Deidra Druilhet, a spokeswoman at the DOTD. But that price is just half of what the project was originally expected to cost.
“Funding plays a significant role. That’s the ultimate thing,” Druilhet says. “We are strategically placing the funds we do have in the right areas for the project. But of course, it’s a $3-billion project. We’re also looking for alternative sources.”
Several separate sections make up I-49 South. Most have been completed and some are currently being worked on, such as the U.S. 90 Interchange at Ambassador Caffery in Broussard, where the road will be widened to six lanes.
DOTD will also soon award a design-build contract for the U.S. 90 Interchange at LA 318 in St. Mary Parish, expected to begin in late 2015 or early 2016. A number of smaller projects, like creating frontage and service roads, have also been completed over the years.
One of the major sections left is the $750-million Lafayette Connector, which will run from I-10 to Pinhook Road, just past the Lafayette Regional Airport. Druilhet said design work for the connector is set to begin this summer. The other major project is the route from Raceland to the West Bank Expressway, which is in the initial planning stage.
Although a final completion date for I-49 South has not been set, DOTD is fully committed to seeing the project through.
“We want a reliable, efficient, safe highway network,” Druilhet says. “One that will sustain economic development and improve the daily commute for workers.”
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced Monday that it has signed a design-build contract, as part of the Geaux South program, for the construction of the U.S. 90 (future I-49 South) at Louisiana 318 interchange project in St. Mary Parish.
The design-build contractor is Gilchrist Construction Co., who has selected Stantec as its lead designer.
The project will involve upgrading the existing U.S. 90 and Louisiana 318 signalized intersection to a full control of access, grade-separated interchange including the reconstruction of the U.S. 90 frontage roads to provide local access to Louisiana 318.
As part of the plan, the project would improve connectivity for industrial and freight transport to the sugar mill and port-related industries, as well as increase capacity and improve overall mobility.
The $56 million project will be primarily funded with unclaimed property funds.
Work is estimated for completion in just over two years.
The Geaux South program is a $3 billion program dedicated to upgrading U.S. 90 to interstate standards.
See the full article here.
by Ken Stickney
Interstate 49 south efforts are making incremental progress, with a favorable bid received for reworking an intersection in St. Mary Parish and design plans progressing on the route that will link Shreveport to New Orleans, mostly along U.S. Highway 90.
But the big money for executing the project from Lafayette to New Orleans, the southern portion of the route in Louisiana, may not show up until 2020, when the department hopes to capitalize on additional funding scheduled to be gained through the Vehicle Sales Tax.
In response to a question from state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, Secretary of Transportation and Development Sherri LeBas told the Senate Finance Committee on Monday that bids were taken for work at the intersection of U.S. 90 and La. 318 in St. Mary Parish, along the route. The low bid of about $55 million came in about $4 million under the projection; a contract may be signed by May or June.
LeBas said that St. Mary project would leave an intersection at U.S. 90 and Ambassador Caffery in Lafayette and an intersection of U.S. and La. 88 in St. Martin Parish as the lone projects remaining for I-49 south below the Lafayette airport to St. Mary. The remainder of the route between those points meet standards for interstate highways.
LeBas said a consultant is at work on the Lafayette Connector, which would run from Interstate 10 to Pinhook Road.
The good news, she said, is that design work is progressing and will be well along when the Vehicle Sales Tax money — she said it would provide around $400 million a year — becomes available, probably in 2020. The Lafayette Connector alone will cost about $750 million.
LeBas appeared before the finance committee Monday morning to discuss her department’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, expressed concern to LeBas about state bridges that were out of service in his area, which includes St. Landry Parish, especially bridges in rural areas. He asked about the possibility of building lower-cost bridges, perhaps using timber, to replace some of those. He suggested it might be better to build several lower-cost bridges than one expensive bridge.
LeBas said she would review that possibility.
Department of Public Safety Secretary James LeBlanc told the Senate Finance committee that the state prison population is declining and the average cost of housing a prisoner remains lower in Louisiana than elsewhere. He said the state pays $36.59 a day to house a prisoner, on average. That includes state, local and private facilities. The cost of housing a prisoner in North Carolina is some $75 a day, one committee member said.
Nonetheless, Louisiana continues to have the country’s highest incarceration rate: about 840 prisoners per 100,000 people, LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said the projected fiscal 2016 budget of $785.6 million was OK and that reductions of some $25 million were “manageable,” given the decrease in prisoners.
“It’s not anywhere like it was,” he said. “We had reached the breaking point.”
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, said State Police had 1,015 state trooper commissioned officers as of January. The number of troopers had been as low as 917, after five years with no trooper classes.
Edmonson said one class was graduated in 2014, one graduated earlier this year and a third class will graduate by the end of the year. He said the recommended budget of $52,799,104 was “barebones,” but that the State Police would do what was needed to protect the public.
“I just want to have the tools in their toolbox so they can effectively do their job,” he said.
He said the department could not sustain additional cuts and remain as effective.