415 Connector

Photo courtesy of the WBR Parish Government 

The 415 Connector won final approval Tuesday, June 4 when the House voted 90-11 to approve a $690 million plan, the largest transportation bill passed in 30 years. 

Now it will head to Gov. John Bel Edward’s desk, who previously said he would likely support it. 

Senator Rick Ward called the passage "such a great team effort." 

House Bill 578 by state Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, includes $700 million in road projects across the state, including the long-discussed connector route from La. 415 to La. 1 south, off I-10 in West Baton Rouge Parish. 

The funding will come from the nearly $10 billion in settlement funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

The bill has been pushed heavily by West Side lawmakers, including state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, and state representatives Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, and Jeremy Lacombe of New Roads. 

The La. 415 project – which carries a price tag of $125 million – was the initial portion of the bill, along with the elevation of a portion of La. 1 between Golden Meadow and Leeville, a key route for energy companies which transport oil from rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The elevation project in the coastal area is estimated to cost $343 million.

Representatives from the northern portion of the state subsequently asked for inclusion for road improvements in their respective districts. Magee assured the House that "there is something in here for everybody." 

The state will receive $50 million for 14 years form the BP settlement. Forty-five percent of the money currently goes toward budget stabilization and another 45 percent to the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. The remainder will be split among the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) districts equally. 

The plan redirects the Medicaid fund to infrastructure and reimburse it starting next year, Magee said. 

The project already has $50 million set aside -- $25 million from the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and $25 million from business and industry. 

The project’s origins date back to 1972 – a year before the completion of the I-10 stretch to Lafayette –when it was identified as a priority in the West Baton Rouge Parish Master Plan. 

A report by Dr. Loren Scott and LSU Economist Jim Richardson revealed that the U.S. economy loses $22 million each hour the La. 1 artery is out of commission in the coastal parishes. 

DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D reported a $14 million backlog in state infrastructure projects earlier this year. Since then, Edwards has encouraged the use of innovative funding for infrastructure projects. 

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