Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Department of Transportation Development Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson announced plans last Friday for one of the biggest road improvement projects in decades for the Interstate 10 corridor.
Edwards and Wilson, who spoke at the Water Center, announced the state’s intention to utilize federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle Bonds (GARVEE Bonds) to construct four major projects in three areas of Louisiana that have been part of the State’s Transportation Master Plan for decades.
The state will begin the administrative process to request approximately $600 million in bonds, consistent with current state law.
“This innovative funding mechanism is needed in Louisiana at this time,” Gov. Edwards said. “These projects impact three large areas of our state and are of the utmost importance for economic development and for convenience to the traveling public. The longer we wait, the more they cost and the more we lose.”
The project will include reconstruction and widening of Interstate 10 from the Mississippi River Bridge from the Mississippi River Bridge to the I-10/I-12 split in Baton Rouge. The work will cover a substantial portion of the I-10 reconstruction and widening from the Mississippi River Bridge to the I-10/I-12 split in Baton Rouge. Widening is required to maintain traffic during the reconstruction process.
The project list also includes the creation of a new interchange on I-10 in Kenner at Loyola Drive to serve the new Armstrong airport terminal currently under construction. It will also fund up to 10 percent of project cost for new toll bridges (the Belle Chasse bridge and tunnel replacement project would be eligible if the funds are necessary.)
In north Louisiana, the project will fund the construction of an access road from I-20 directly into Barksdale AFB in Bossier City.
GARVEE bonds allow the state to repay the debt with federal highway funds the state receives each year.
The debt will be paid over 12 years. Significant financial contributions are being made by local governments and the metropolitan planning organizations in the impacted areas of the state; including the City of Baton Rouge/EBR Parish, Capital Region Planning Commission, City of Kenner, Jefferson Parish, City of New Orleans, New Orleans International Airport, Regional Planning Commission, City of Bossier City, Bossier Parish, and Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments.
The GARVEE bonds will put the state on the fast track to address crumbling infrastructure and growing congestion all the time.
“With the GARVEE bonds, we will be able to utilize the proceeds to expand and preserve critical elements our interstate system,” Wilson said. “This will create a better quality of life for citizens, a better experience for visitors, and a stronger economy for Louisiana by re-developing our current infrastructure to meet the needs of business and the traveling public.
“DOTD is committed to maintaining and growing our interstate system and delivering transformational projects, and through this funding, we will finally be able to deliver some much-needed projects across the state,” he said. “Make no mistake, this does not solve our transportation funding problem, it simply addresses the tip of the iceberg of infrastructure needs.”
All of the projects are expected to receive environmental clearance by the end of 2018, which is also the anticipated time frame that the GARVEE program will be finalized.
Additionally, the Department will proceed to seek approval to use design-build for the Loyola Interchange and Barksdale entrance projects such that both projects will not have to wait for funding once environmental clearance is achieved.
The Department will decide on the preferred delivery method for the I-10 reconstruction and widening once the constructability analysis that is underway is completed.