Funding Phase Two

March 3, 2021
Frank McMains, Country Roads Magazine
Country Roads Magazine
Country Roads Magazine
Country Roads Magazine
Country Roads Magazine
Country Roads Magazine

To protect against flooding, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has been hard at work replacing part of the LA 1 highway with an 18-mile-long bridge. The finished highway would be elevated to 22 feet above the surrounding water level. Phase 1 of this project started back in 2011, opening construction from Port Fourchon to Leeville.

Although tolls collected for funding the improvement project's first phase don't cover its entire cost, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards signed a $700M infrastructure bill in June 2019 which included $150M dedicated for the LA 1 project. 

This week, Louisiana officials began discussing Phase 2; they plan to open bids for completion of the project, which may cost upwards of $400M in total. The proposed timeline suggests that the project should be completed in 2027. 

According to a project summary, “The project supports economic vitality by providing a faster, more direct route for vehicles accessing the energy production industries located at Port Fourchon. At present, LA 1 is inundated and subject to closure up to 10 days per year, and that is likely to increase in the coming years.” (David Jacobs, The Center Square)

Because revenue is lower than expected this fiscal year, taxpayers in the state of Louisiana will be paying about $4M to make up for the lost toll revenue.

It might be necessary to replace the tolling system on LA 1, according to DOTD officials. The costs for this replacement might be high. Plenary Group, the state's private partner for a $165M bridge and tunnel replacement project, may take over toll administration for the highway.

While these are certainly tough economic times, the Commerce Department reported that "spending on government projects, which has been constrained by tight state and local budgets in the wake of the pandemic, rose 1.7%." (Matt Ott, AP News) Non-residential construction has increased slightly compared with recent months, but spending is still 10% lower than January 2020. The Commerce Department also stated that total construction spending in January 2021, at $1.52B, is up 5.8% from the previous January.