A Letter from our President
Over the last ten years, a frequent subject of this column has been the inability or unwillingness of our elected officials to make a priority of funding infrastructure improvements and especially to address the very poor condition of our state’s highway system.
In 2019, I wrote “Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure needs are well documented: the American Society of Civil Engineers has issued a grade of D+ for the condition of our roads and bridges; U.S. News and World Report ranks our transportation system 48th among the 50 states. Our state has over 16,000 miles of public roadways and almost 13,000 bridges to maintain, yet our fuel tax of 16 cents per gallon has not changed since 1985 (an additional 4 cents per gallon was added in 1989 to fund 16 new capacity projects; two of the 16 have not yet been started).
The 16 cents per gallon that funds the annual construction program in Louisiana has a buying power in 2019 dollars of only 6 cents per gallon, and cars now travel many more miles per gallon of gas than in 1985. It is little surprise, then, that motorists waste hours each year stuck in traffic on overcrowded roads while incurring excessive wear and tear on their vehicles.
The solution to this situation is a fair and equitable recurring funding stream that keeps pace with inflation, distributes the burden to all users and prioritizes projects. Any revenue increase should be dedicated by statute to be used for preservation of existing roads and bridges and for highway capacity improvements.”
With the support of our industry joined by a broad coalition of businesses, chambers of commerce and neighborhood associations, the Louisiana Legislature recently passed and Governor Edwards signed House Bill 514. While not the more straightforward increase in the gas tax that our group urged, the legislation instead ultimately shifts a majority of the sales tax generated on vehicles to the state Transportation Trust Fund. The shift will begin in 2023 and will transfer over a few years an increased percentage of vehicle sales tax revenue—up to 60% of all funds—to the Fund for exclusive use on construction of transportation infrastructure projects. When fully implemented, this is expected to generate approximately $300 million annually in new dedicated funds for infrastructure and will grow with inflation as the cost of vehicles increases over time.
The legislation also provides that 75% of the funds shall be allocated to improving highway capacity while 25% shall be allocated to preservation of existing roadways.
Several projects prioritized in the legislation include:
- New I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge at Lake Charles
- New Mississippi River Bridge at Baton Rouge
- Upgrade US 90 to interstate standards from Lafayette to New Orleans
- Upgrade to portions of I-49 North
- Complete the widening of I-12 to six lanes from Baton Rouge to Mississippi State Line
- Widen I-10 to eight lanes from Williams Boulevard to Veterans Boulevard in Kenner
- Widen I-10 to six lanes from LA 30 to LA 22 in Ascension Parish
This is a very positive development for our state and for our company, and we look forward to playing a major role in building the new projects that will be possible as a result of this new source of funding.
-Robert S. Boh, President