During a stop in Lake Charles on Monday, U.S. congressman and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Ralph Abraham pledged to work with President Donald Trump on securing a new Interstate 10-Calcasieu River bridge.
"This new bridge is vital not just to Louisiana, but to the entire nation," Abraham, a Republican, said. "It's vital to our public safety, and it's vital to our energy security and now, our energy dominance."
Keith DuRousseau, chairman of the I-10 bridge task force, said Abraham has supported its efforts on building a new bridge. The task force in January proposed a plan to build a new six-lane bridge through an innovative public/private partnership.
Abraham is one of several Republicans challenging Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in the upcoming election Oct. 12. A new I-10 bridge is not a priority for the Edwards' administration, Abraham said.
"He may pretend it's a priority because it's an election year, but he hasn't gotten it done," Abraham said. "I will."
As a congressman, Abraham said he has been an ally of Trump. He said he wrote a letter to Trump in late July that detailed how they could work together to build a new bridge. During a May visit to Sempra Energy's facility in Hackberry, Trump received a standing ovation after guaranteeing a new I-10 bridge, if re-elected. Trump called the bridge "very unsafe" with "a lot of problems."
Abraham pledged to work with the president to secure funding for a new bridge, but he added that the local community, along with the task force, will be heavily involved.
"They're going to be the nuts and bolts of this entire project," Abraham said. "President Trump and I will work hand-in-hand about getting the money, getting what we need to get the bridge built. But all the decision making will come back to the local level."
Abraham said the area is environmentally safe to build a new bridge, a major issue since an ethylene dichloride pipeline leaked underneath the bridge in 1994. The I-10 task force said during a press conference in January that the leak is "no longer a cause for delay."
"There have been enough (environmental) studies," Abraham said.