Task force chairman: Edwards’ proposed budget doesn’t offer enough funding for I-10 bridge

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Keith DuRousseau, chairman of the Interstate 10 bridge Task Force, said Tuesday that the state budget plan’s proposed infrastructure funding doesn’t provide enough to help replace the antiquated Interstate 10-Calcasieu River bridge.

Gov. John Bel Edwards discussed his state budget plan Monday. It proposes $100 million for a new I-10 bridge here, $500 million for the I-10 Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge, $100 million for the I-49 Lafayette connector and $500 million for statewide water and sewer improvements.

DuRousseau said the task force is pleased with the money proposed for the I-10 bridge in Calcasieu. However, the structure is vastly different from the Mississippi River bridge.

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“We understand they are both needs, but the Mississippi River bridge is a sound structure suffering from congestion and growth,” DuRousseau said. “The Calcasieu River bridge is obsolete and in desperate need of replacement. We just wish that (Edwards) would focus more funding toward the I-10 bridge and the recovery of Southwest Louisiana.”

DuRousseau mentioned an article in the Advocate Monday that referenced Edwards calling the I-10 Mississippi River bridge Louisiana’s largest infrastructure need.

“We don’t underestimate any project

See BRIDGE, A5 Continued from A2

needs in the state; we just need to prioritize these as a life safety issue and a commitment to protecting Louisiana citizens,” DuRousseau said.

Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said in a videotaped message at the Jan. 13 Chamber banquet in Lake Charles that replacing the I-10 bridge is expected to cost upward of $860 million. He said $162 million has already been set aside for the effort. The state will dedicate roughly $150 million in 2023 and 2024 from vehicle sales taxes to the public, with the I-10 bridge project anticipated to get 75 percent of that amount.

Wilson added that tolls are being considered as a financing option for the bridge replacement, but he didn’t specify what that amount could be. DuRousseau said the task force is working closely with the state legislative delegation to consider every funding option to reduce or eliminate tolls for local drivers.

“We want to avoid a burden on the residents of Calcasieu Parish and surrounding parishes who depend on the I-10 bridge,” DuRousseau said. “Our pursuit will not end until this is resolved.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden mentioned the I-10-Calcasieu River bridge and his visit to Lake Charles last May when discussing the Build Back Better infrastructure plan, which includes $40 billion for bridge improvements.

Specifics on how much money could be set aside for the new I-10 bridge have not been released.