LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -The I-10 Bridge Task Force and other local business people are working to build a coalition to advance their cause: a new I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River within five years.
The State and Task Force don’t yet see eye-to-eye on all the issues.
The way the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development sees it, faster is not necessarily better—when you’re building a major bridge to serve the public for decades. That’s just one issue the DOTD and local business people may not agree on, so far.
State Secretary of DOTD, Dr. Shawn Wilson, responded to Task Force recommendations with a six-page letter.
However, Keith DuRousseau, who chairs the Task Force, says they’re working to meet somewhere in the middle.
“Our timeline was based upon other projects that we evaluated, however we will be working closely with DOTD to form a timeline which we feel is mutually agreeable to Southwest Louisiana,” DuRousseau said.
“We are advocating an innovative public-private partnership, which usually uses multiple funding resources, whether it’s different grants or bonds or federal and state tax dollars that are associated with it. However, we’re asking for the private funds because the public are not available at this time and don’t seem to be available in the near future,” he said.
“We still request that the Department of Transportation on the state, local and federal level participate in their same oversight, compliance, guidance, the developers still held to the same standards. However, we ask for the private finance to finance 100 percent as opposed to waiting for public dollars that may or may not be available,” DuRousseau said. “This would allow the developers to propose certain amenities and certain features to a bridge and it would really maximize the community involvement and input.”
The Task Force envisions a construction start date in 2020, but he says they are currently negotiating a time line with the DOTD.
While Task Force members say legislators are supportive, State Representative Mark Abraham, who attended the presentation, says it’s a work in progress.
“I don’t want anyone walking out of here thinking that this timeline is the one that’s going to happen. We don’t know that yet. We are going to try to be as aggressive as we can,” Abraham said.
Both the state and Task Force say tolls are needed to pay for the bridge, but it's too early to say how much.
Also, some fear those who don't want to pay would use the I-210 bridge instead, causing congestion.
“The developers that would engage to build this project are competing against an option which is free. We feel free enterprise coupled with the innovation of private industry would help to alleviate that traffic,” DuRousseau said.
And all agree the old bridge would stay in use until a new bridge is complete.
State Senator Ronnie Johns has agreed to sponsor legislation dealing with the 1994 ethylene dichloride spill in the Calcasieu River.
It would require any money that comes from that court case to be used to help build the new bridge.
The Task Force also urges citizens and businesses to get involved by staying up to date and sharing the facts, liking them on Facebook, inviting them to speak to civic and community groups and more. Here is a sample letter of support they urge people to send to state and federal senators and representatives. The Task Force email is firstname.lastname@example.org