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Vitter, others support tolls to complete I-49

Vitter, others support tolls to complete I-49

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — U.S. Sen. David Vitter says he "aggressively favors tolls" to pay part of the $3 billion needed for the completion of Interstate 49 between Lafayette and New Orleans.

He told a meeting of the I-49 South Coalition in Lafayette Friday that people would accept tolls to build new roads if they have alternate routes to avoid the tolls if they want to.

Vitter, a Republican who's running for governor in 2015, made the statements Friday at a meeting of the I-49 South Coalition in Lafayette, drawing support from other attendees.

"We have to consider any funding source to get this done," said state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin. "It's not going to fall out of the sky. The feds are not going to write us a check."

A feasibility study released recently concludes that a toll of 18 cents per mile toll could pay for 30-40 percent of the project.

The state has completed some overpasses, service roads and other projects to bring portions of U.S. 90 up to interstate standards between Lafayette and New Orleans, but high-dollar hurdles remain, such as the estimated $700 million elevated "I-49 Connector" through Lafayette.

Allain said he envisions using tolls only on sections of I-49 South where the most work is needed rather than on stretches either already up to interstate standards or in need of little work to bring them there. He the study needs to be revisited to research the effectiveness of tolling only portions of the road,

Former state Transportation Secretary Kam Movassiaghi is calling for increased fuel taxes and a reorganized Department of Transportation and Development.

He's proposing an 8 percent tax on the base price of fuel to replace the current tax of 16 cents per gallon. Movassiaghi says the tax would bring in $690 million, versus the current tax, which generates $480 million.

"Our highways are in deplorable condition," Movassiaghi said, saying needs go beyond completing I-49.

Movassiaghi also proposes to restructure DOTD with seven commissioner members serving eight-year terms, so no single governor can control the commission, he said. The current DOTD secretary is appointed by the governor.

Nine current DOTD districts would be consolidated into seven, with one commissioner representing each.

 

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