For decades, infrastructure in Louisiana has suffered from a systematic lack of investment. While infrastructure has been a neglected priority, its demand has continued to increase.
Louisiana relies on a 16-cent gas tax from 1984 as well as federal grants and innovative funding and financing opportunities to maintain our current transportation system and build new capacity. Currently, DOTD operates a $800 million annual construction budget and has been successful in delivering major projects around the state, including the new I-20 interchange entrance into Barksdale Air Force Base. The expected guaranteed $150 million additional annual dollars provided by vehicles sales taxes from ACT 486 of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session will further advance the projects we all agree are needed.
The historic bipartisan investment made by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA), which has passed the U.S. Senate and is to be debated in the U.S. House of Representatives, would spur economic growth and position Louisiana for tomorrow. The IIJA is the largest dedicated highway and bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system. Coupled with the actions of the Louisiana legislature, I am confident the citizens of Louisiana would see significant benefits for years to come.
If passed, Louisiana is guaranteed to receive $4.8 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $1 billion for bridge replacement and repairs over the next five years. In addition, Louisiana would be eligible to compete for billions more with the Bridge Investment Program and other major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to your communities, like broadband, resiliency and passenger rail.
This is the largest long-term infrastructure investment bill that our nation has seen in decades and every region of the state would benefit. Some of the major projects that could be advanced include the I-49 North Inner City Connector as well as strategic I-20 widening throughout northwest Louisiana.
With this funding, we can begin upgrading our state’s ports, rail, airports, transit systems, and roads and bridges. Louisiana has proven what it can do when it has the resources and we stand ready to make the best use of these federal funds for the citizens of Louisiana. As the state’s transportation secretary, I am encouraging the members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation to vote in support of this bill and send it to the President’s desk for signature.
Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D.
Secretary, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development