Daily World: One Acadiana continues to eye I-49 South

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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.”