Another piece of the transportation puzzle in northwest Louisiana is in place with the opening of the I-49 interchange at I-220 in Shreveport Wednesday.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) hosted local, state, and national officials with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on the K2 segment of the interstate.
“Normally, we don’t allow you to walk on the interstate,” said DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson. “We’ve traded our hard hats and orange vests for trucks and cars.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards was on hand for the event. He said the ribbon cutting represented decades of work. He said the impact is that it allows Louisiana to be more competitive when it comes to commerce.
“It’s important to make meaningful investments in travel infrastructure for quality of life and economic development,” said Gov. Edwards. “It’s important to remain competitive economically and we have to keep (road projects) at the top of our priority list. This is not a partisan issue. These trucks aren’t Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.”
He credited the work done by Wilson to complete road projects with minimal funds, adding that Louisiana would need to be strategic and creative about spending dollars on infrastructure projects.
“We stand here today to fight for what our residents deserve — roads and bridges they can be proud of,” Wilson added.
State Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, pointed out the effort it took to get the project funded.
“When former President Dwight Eisenhower envisioned the interstate system, funding was split 80-20 with 80 from the federal and 20 from the state. What you don’t realize is now it’s 60-40, and that 60 percent came from the State of Louisiana,” Glover said. “You need to keep that in mind when you have projects in mind because those dollars won’t come easy and they won’t come cheap.”
The opening represented the culmination of four years of work. The $142 million interchange is also the largest infrastructure piece on the corridor, which will serve an average of 68,000 travelers each day.
“We can now say I-49 connects I-10 in the south and Arkansas in the north and it’s been a long time coming, but we can say that today,” Gov. Edwards said to applause.
Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler called the project a blessing for Shreveport and the region.
“I am proud to witness a vision for not only Shreveport but our region and our state. It is something we have long been wanting to see and now it’s here. It took everyone coming together and uniting around that vision and those people who came before.”
Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Tim Magner said today’s ceremony represented a commitment from a host of leaders that put in time and effort long before the ribbon cutting.
“We are today benefiting from others who came together and led the business to community to come together and define what we need,” said Dr. Magner.
Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) said the opening of the new segment shows that Louisiana is serious about its economy.
“We’re in Washington advocating for what Louisiana can offer,” said Johnson. “That’s why it’s critical we have investment like this to keep that movement going.”