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Editorial: SHIF project selection has some lawmakers fuming

Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 6:07 PM

Several state lawmakers are fuming over the selection of state highways to be repaired via a fund that was set up last year by the state Legislature.

Legislators approved the State Highway Improvement Fund to address worn state highways in rural areas that are not eligible for federal funds for repairs. The SHIF plan uses about $50 million that is generated annually from commercial vehicle registrations and license fees to secure bonds to pay for the roadwork. The money is to pay off the bonds in 20 years.

About 1,100 miles of rural roads qualify for the repair work.

But some lawmakers complained after no roads in their districts were included on the list slated for repairs this year.

‘‘I’ve asked and I keep getting nothing,’’ said state Rep. Terry Brown, No Party-Colfax, who added that he would like to have a crumb or two tossed his way.

‘‘It’s not working out for me and some other folks,’’ said state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin.

Road projects in Southwest Louisiana scheduled to be bid this year include La. 389 and La. 399 in Beauregard Parish and La. 399 and La. 469 in Vernon Parish. No roads in Allen, Calcasieu, Cameron or Jeff Davis parishes are included in this year’s project list.

Some lawmakers have insinuated that Gov. Bobby Jindal may be using the road plan to reward legislators who have supported his initiatives and punish those who have opposed them. They and the public would be naive to assume that was not within the realm of possibility. And if their assertions are true, Jindal wouldn’t be the first governor who used road projects as leverage.

DOTD officials, however, say that politics is not a factor in the road selection.

DOTD Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda said the list is derived from a priority plan which uses formulas to determine which roads attain top priority.

Kalivoda’s boss at DOTD, Secretary Sherri LeBas, said that SHIF is a three-year program that will address the needs. DOTD officials said that all but 11 of the state’s 64 parishes will see some sort of repairs in the first two years of the program.

State lawmakers and motorists will have to be a bit more patient as the state goes about repairing rural roads that are long overdue for a face lift.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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