Thursday, May 30, 2024

Transportation programs reviewed by joint committee

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Lawmakers on a joint transportation committee on Monday reviewed programs at the Department of Transportation and Development for flood control, airport and port construction.

Secretary Eric Kalivoda and staff presented a review for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 to the Joint Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee regarding three programs: statewide flood control, the Airport Construction and Development Priority Program, and the Port Construction and Development Priority Program.

Program Manager Billy Williamson offered highlights from the flood control program. There are four projects recommended from the most recent application cycle. Three are in two rural funding districts, the other in the urban program.

“The four projects … are expected to provide over $90 million in flood damage reduction benefits upon completion,” Williamson said. “To date, 129 projects have been completed with statewide flood control program assistance, using (Transportation Trust Fund) dollars.”

In total, the program has spent more than $305.5 million to provide more than $2.8 billion in flood damage reduction benefits, Williamson said.

Bradley Brandt, aviation director, presented an update on the Airport Construction and Development Priority Program.

The program is recommending a total of 23 air carrier projects at commercial service airports for approximately $106 million in total funding, including $18.6 million in state funding.

Another 84 projects are recommended for general aviation airports for a total investment of about $54 million, with $9.6 million coming from the state, Brandt said.

“The total program funding recommendation is for 107 recommended projects this year … at a total cost of just over $160 million in total funds, and that includes $27.9 million from state investment standpoint, and over $132 million from other than state sources,” he said.

Unfunded planned projects for 2024 through 2031 include 179 air carrier projects at a total cost of just over $1.1 billion, and 904 projects at more than $626 million for general aviation airports.

The program includes 68 public airports that apply annually, with funding from the Transportation Trust Fund.

Director of Ports Molly Bourgoyne discussed proposed projects for the Port Construction and Development Priority Program.

She highlighted 15 previously approved projects that are awaiting full funding, and seven new projects that includes four previously approved last fall.

“The three new project applications are from Port of Lake Providence, the Port of Plaquemine, and the Port of St. Bernard,” she said. “Combined, these seven new projects request about $58 million. They provide an estimated $2 billion in benefits to the state, and create or retain 942 jobs.”

Bourgoyne explained there are 39 ports in the state that can apply for discretionary funding from the Transportation Trust Fund through the program. Applications are evaluated by staff and an economist to ensure they meet stringent criteria, which includes specific calculations for benefit-cost ratio and return on investment to the state, she said.

Applications are ranked based on port management, job creation, submitted plans, project description, alternatives analysis, needs, cargo numbers, cost estimates and other factors, Bourgoyne said.

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