Mayor Hunter on I-10 bridge, ‘It’s an American problem’

Imagine walking up this bridge to visit a farmers market or to get some exercise
Imagine walking up this bridge to visit a farmers market or to get some exercise(Theresa Schmidt KPLC)
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 2:25 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - In a Facebook post made Wednesday, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter spoke out about the need for a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge saying the bridge is a major economic and transportation conduit for the Gulf Coast.

The mayor also said he is not willing to “pass the problem to the next generation” as he says local leadership will fight for a new bridge.

Per Mayor Hunter’s post:

The need for a new I-10 Bridge is not a Lake Charles problem. It’s not a Calcasieu Parish problem. It’s an American problem. That bridge and stretch of I-10 is a major economic and transportation conduit for the entire Gulf Coast, and we’ve been talking about this American problem for 30 years. Talk is cheap. A new bridge will not be cheap.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization, of which I am a member, is asking the state DOTD to include certain iconic features such as LED, programmable lighting and a pedestrian/bike path on the new I-10 Bridge design. Ultimately, everything costs money, and the state and locals will need to decide if this bridge design is financially feasible.

Let’s talk about funding for a moment. I often hear people say “they” should do this or “they” should do that. Who exactly is “they?” Is it the current 117th Congress and President Joe Biden? Was it the 116th Congress and President Trump? Is it our current governor or the 5 before him that were in office over the past 30 years? The point is, over 30 years, we haven’t gotten this done and it always comes down to funding.

This is why I am a proponent of a robust, federal infrastructure package that hopefully could help us with this much-needed project. This is another reason why I believe in bipartisanship, being willing to sit down, face to face, with someone you may not even like and discuss a common good, like a new I-10 Bridge or disaster recovery for a hurricane-ravaged community.

Ultimately, I don’t know if Congress will pass an infrastructure package that can help build us a new I-10 Bridge. If such a package does pass, I know that local leadership will fight to see the I-10 Bridge project benefit. Should federal funding not materialize, another, less popular option is a toll. Ultimately, I would support a new bridge with a modest, feasible toll that sunsets rather than see no bridge at all. By the way, there are creative mechanisms where locals pay an extremely reduced toll rate.

Again, local leadership will fight like hell to impress upon our state and federal government that this is an American problem, not a local problem, but what I am not willing to do is kick the can down the road and pass the problem to the next generation.

Yes, we can keep saying what “they” should do for another 30 years and wait for a new bridge for another 30 years if we want to, or we can start saying what “we” can do.

We will have more on the state I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge at 4, 6 and 10.

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