The long anticipated dream of completing an elevated highway from Port Fourchon to Golden Meadow took one more step forward Wednesday.
Despite lengthy discussion and pushback from state legislators, a bill that would allocate $150 million to complete a major segment of the La. 1 elevation project will proceed to the Senate.
House Bill 578, sponsored by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, passed the House floor with only four votes in opposition. All Houma-Thibodaux area representatives supported the measure.
The bill splits $53.33 million annual payments from BP oil spill economic recovery dollars between the La. 1 elevation project, the La. 415 connector to La. 1 in west Baton Rouge and a construction trust fund from 2021 to 2026.
For the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, the money will go to its current source, the Budget Stabilization Fund, the Trust Fund for the Elderly and the Health Trust Fund. Magee said the state will have to replace the money going to those groups after 2020 from the general fund.
If approved by the Senate, the bill will split annual BP settlement payments of roughly $53.33 million between the two projects, at $25 million each, and reserve the remaining $3.33 million for the construction trust fund.
The $3.33 million in the fund would be divided evenly between the nine Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development districts, according to an amendment to the bill made by Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley.
After 2026, all of the annual payments will be put into the state construction trust fund.
Advocates of the bill say both the La. 1 project and the La. 415 projects have big impacts on the region, state and nation and are shovel ready.
Yet with $53 million on the table every year, some legislators wanted to see more of that money directed to their areas to complete long delayed projects.
Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, and Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, said the two outstanding projects under the state’s Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development program for transportation infrastructure should receive first priority after waiting 30 years.
White’s amendment to pull the money from the La. 1 project and dedicate it to the completion of La. 3241 from Interstate 12 to Bush failed.
Magee said Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes didn’t receive any TIMED projects but continue to pay a gas tax for the program.
Other co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, and Rep. Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, spoke out against White’s amendment.
Members of the House Transportation Committee also expressed concern that the bill was not referred to them for consideration before going to the House floor.
“I certainly approve the concept of taking BP money and putting it into a sub-fund,” Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said. But “the BP spill affected many parts of this state, it wasn’t just the coastal areas.”
If approved by the Senate, the La. 1 project would receive a total of $150 million through 2026.
The money would go toward Phase 2, elevating the roadway between Golden Meadow and Leeville. Phase 2, Segment E is already under construction to widen the existing curve on the Leeville Bridge and prepare for the elevated extension to Golden Meadow. The remaining segments in Phase 2 are projected to cost $343 million.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.
Posted on Fri, May 17, 2019
by By Julia Arenstam Daily Comet Staff Writer