Highway improvements move along

February 6, 2007
Reported by Pam Dixon

This year Louisiana won the unsavory honor of having the worst roads in the country. That undesirable title was the result of a survey by "overdrive," the trucking industry's leading magazine for owner-operators.

Truck drivers will be the first to tell you, Louisiana has some of the worst roads in the country. South Carolina trucker Stacy Faile says, "I-10 is rough. It has unevenness and cracks in the concrete and the asphalt. Some pieces of concrete are missing."

Lester LeBlanc with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development says there's a reason for that. LeBlanc says, "Remember this is a basin for the Mississippi Delta and there's a lot of silt material in Louisiana that we've got to contend with. That's one of our problems and we've got to do it where it can withstand heavy loads."

And if it's not soft soil slowing down progress, the rising cost of construction since the 2005 hurricanes is leaving Louisiana with a two billion dollar gap in road construction needs and funding for them. LeBlanc says, "We probably have 15-20 projects on the back burner that we have to keep delaying on a year to year basis because of the funds available." But major projects are moving forward in Southwest Louisiana. LeBlanc says the six laning of Interstate 10 between Sulphur and Vinton should be completed by late April. The six laning of I-10 from Iowa to U.S. 165 should begin in six weeks. LeBlanc says, "The public is going to be very, very pleased with this project because we going to have a concrete barrier the full length. That's to protect the oncoming traffic from head on accidents."

And that's not all. The four laning of U.S. 171 from Lake Charles to DeRidder could be completed in March if weather permits. The four laning of 165 from I-10 to just south of Alexandria conitnues.

A new coalition backed by highway construction companies and chambers of commerce is trying to educate the public about how the state needs to change the way it funds its highways. "Driving Louisiana Forward" says road conditions are a major negative when companies consider new locations or expansions.