24 October 2008

Show me a surplus and I'll show you lobbyists with their hands out.

The Advocate - I-49 advocates ask for funds

I went into the surplus in one of yesterday's posts. As I noted there, the people behind TIMED are looking at the possibility of tapping into an expected $865 million state surplus next year. Well, they'd better do it soon, because another group is proposing using some of it to work on the southern I-49 extension (a.k.a. That Highway That Should Be Designated Interstate Six!).

The I-49 South Coalition, dormant for years, is poised not only to lobby for some of the state surplus, but also to try to get some place in next year's federal transportation bill. Even then it'd be a drop in the bucket; several billion is still needed to bring the route (currently designated as US 90) up to Interstate standards, including about $700 million for an elevated connector through Lafayette itself and upwards of $4 billion possibly needed for the section between Bayou Lafourche and New Orleans.

According to them, however, drops in the bucket can help. $25 million could build an overpass, they say, and that's about what they say they're looking for - enough for one or more overpasses. (Memo to them... interchanges help too!)

...This seems oddly familiar... ah, well. I guess the chance to get ahold of some piece of nearly a billion dollars will attract everyone, especially in an economic downturn.

Just expect more of these as next year rapidly approaches... and expect them to spend like there's going to be another surplus. Which there probably won't...

1 comment:

Anthony Kennerson said...

Hummph...considering how much in the tank Louisiana's financing of transportation is right about now, I'd settle for a couple of overpasses and interchanges along US 90, too.

My original thinking is that Louisiana could get some much needed love in the proposed "stimulus package" that could be used for some spot improvements along US 90/Future I-49 South....especially for completing some interchanges in St. Mary Parish. The last interchange/overpass that needs to be constructed in Iberia Parish -- the LA 675 interchange near New Iberia -- and the frontage roads along US 90 throughout that parish are already funded (via last years' state surplus funds) and are now either under construction of being let for construction this year.

Other than the section from Wax Lake east to Berwick and the section in Lafayette Parish (which includes both the I-49 Connector through Lafayette and the US 90 upgrade north of LA 88), the rest of US 90 between LA 88 and Wax Lake is just about completed to Interstate freeway standards. I'm thinking that a hit of about $50-70 million should do the trick to build the two or three remaining interchanges (LA 85 near Jeanerette, LA 318 between Jeanerette and Baldwin, and LA 182 at Calumet).

Beyond that, though...it's all going to depend on how Louisiana fares with the next transportation reauthorization bill. With I-49 North basically funded and under construction north of Shreveport (the groundbreaking for the final push to the Arkansas border took place yesterday), I'm sure that our delegation's gonna be pushing hard for getting I-49 South its share of the goods. If this doesn't work this time, then get ready for Option #2: Public/private partnership with real possibility of a tolled route, especially on the Raceland/New Orleans segment. The Lafayette segments could be integrated into the proposed Lafayette Regional Xpressway toll loop around that city..but that would take a while since that project is still in the development and enviromental impact assessment/EIS stages. Personally, I think that tolls suck, especially for a route that was originally built as a free route....but if it gets the damn freeway built sooner, then so be it.