BATON ROUGE — Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, said there has been some misunderstanding about his decision to defer legislation creating a Calcasieu Parish Tolling Authority, and he felt an explanation is in order.
The proposed tolling authority was going to work with a Chamber/Southwest Louisiana task force that has come up with a plan to replace the aged Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River at Lake Charles.
“We passed a tolling authority bill in the House because we had explored all means of bridge financing and had no expectation of federal or state funding,” Abraham said. “Therefore, a possible toll was a last resort funding option.”
Abraham said President Trump gave the task force and area legislators another option when he visited Southwest Louisiana. The state’s congressional delegation had made Trump aware of the need for a new bridge. The president drove over the old bridge on his way to visit the Cameron LNG plant and later said if he was re-elected in 2020 he would see that a new bridge was constructed.
Thanks to Trump’s promise, Abraham said there was the possibility of receiving federal funds to help construct the new I-10 bridge. He said that is why the entire Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation decided to defer (sidetrack) the tolling authority bill and to instead go with a resolution in its place.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 122 directs the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to work with the I-10 bridge task force.
“This task force will continue the momentum it has started, and the legislative delegation will continue to direct DOTD to help in planning and constructing a new bridge with a public/private partnership (P3),” Abraham said.
“Nothing will stop, and if we need a tolling authority for the future we can form one under existing law, but we will not stop until a new bridge is built,” he said.
Abraham said the resolution gives the task force, which has all the knowledge of bridge design, the ability to move forward just like a tolling authority would. He added the concurrent resolution just transfers the powers of the tolling authority to the I-10 bridge task force.
“If we see after the planning and request for proposals stage that a toll is still necessary to partially fill our funding needs, then we can create a tolling authority,”Abraham said.
“The bottom line is that we now have the attention of federal and state officials and should be in a better position to complete a new I-10 bridge,” he said. “All members of the Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation are co-authors of this resolution and all are committed to this project.”