Engineers give Louisiana infrastructure a D+

Engineers give Louisiana infrastructure a D+

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's another bad grade for Louisiana's infrastructure, and it comes as no surprise to state transportation leaders.

This week, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2017 Report Card for Louisiana Infrastructure, giving the state an overall grade of "D+."

"Louisiana's infrastructure needs immediate attention," said former DOTD Secretary Dr. Kam Movassaghi, "A grade of D+ means the system does not provide the intended service and is at risk of failure."

That grade is based on several categories like aviation, drinking water, ports, roads, and bridges. It puts the I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River as a Priority A Megaproject. The report suggests replacing the bridge and approaches, and widening it to 6 lanes.

"I understand what it is. We've absolutely earned the grades that you see here," said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.

"Louisiana has sat idly by for the last 28 years while 44 other states have increased their investment in transportation," said Wilson. "Unfortunately, we've earned our poor rankings, but we can change our standing and act now to build a better Louisiana or accept the rapidly diminishing conditions that will strangle economic development and quality of life."

Wilson said replacing the Calcasieu River Bridge is critical in maintaining the freight corridor.

According to the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Plan, the projected $450 million price tag on the I-10 bridge, is just a piece of the $10.6 billion worth of projects in the state.

How can Louisiana fund it?

Currently, DOTD gets $700 million from the federal government, but only if the state can match it. Wilson says the state may not be able to match all those dollars in the coming years.

He says the key is increasing the gas tax which currently is 20 cents per gallon (16 cents of that goes to DOTD). This legislative session there's a proposal to add 17 more cents which would bring the state's gas tax to 37 cents.

"I will tell you without the gas tax, I can't give you a date certain that that bridge would move," said Wilson, "With the gas tax, should we be successful at getting 17 cents, we believe that all of the megaprojects will get started within the next 10-15 years."

According to Wilson, that 17-cent increase would give DOTD enough to maintain the current level of federal funding and the ability to get some major projects moving.

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