LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -They call it the road show, every year the legislature’s joint committee on highway priorities takes to the road and holds public hearings across the state.
One hot topic this year replacing the I-10 Calcasieu river bridge, especially considering what happened to the sunshine bridge east of here.
The closure of the sunshine bridge in Donaldsonville is creating a multitude of problems for that area, from hardship on sugarcane farmers to kids who need to get to school. A crane being pushed on a barge by a tug hit the bridge.
So, what if a similar accident happened here, and took out the I-10 Calcasieu river bridge while the 210 bridge is down to one lane?
Ken Naquin is the CEO of the associated general contractors of Louisiana. He represents highway contractors in the state.
“I-210 is getting ready to be put down to one lane each way when they do the rehab of the bridge. What happens if the I-10 lake Charles bridge has a similar accident as what has happened to sunshine bridge,” said Naquin. “It will shut down this whole area from an economic development standpoint, quality of life standpoint. You will not be able to move in this area if they shut down that bridge.”
Naquin raised the issue at the annual road show, when the legislature’s joint committee on transportation travels around the state to listen to the public.
Naquin says a new, stable source of funding is needed, he says Louisiana is near last when it comes to funding infrastructure projects.
“Louisiana is the only southern state not to have addressed this long-term infrastructure spending,” Naquin said.
He says the answer is consistent, long term revenue, he says Louisiana needs to raise its fuel tax, now twenty cents a gallon in Louisiana.
“Nationwide, the silver spoon, silver bullet is fuel tax, increase the fuel tax,” Naquin said.
Naquin predicts a bill to do that next year during the legislative session.
“There may be a fuel tax increase bill in the next legislative session. We know that it’s an election year but it’s time to stand up and address our infrastructure needs," said Naquin.
Meanwhile, lawmakers take the information and move to the next city on the list for the highway construction public hearings.
The public still has time to send the state written comments about highway needs and priorities. They should be sent to:
Joint Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee, C/O LA DOTD Section 85, P.O. Box 94245, Baton Rouge, La. 70804-9245