Pelican Institute proposes policy solutions to state’s transportation headaches

Today the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy proposed a new transportation reform agenda as part of its free-market policy platform, “A Jobs and Opportunity Agenda for Louisiana.”

Louisiana’s roadway network is in poor shape, the Pelican Institute says in the paper, adding the state’s highways rank among the worst in the nation in terms of performance and cost effectiveness. The way the state has financed its roads has held Louisiana back compared to other states around the country, with the state relying upon gas taxes for 90 percent of its funding.

In the paper, the Pelican Institute offers methods of stretching gas tax revenues further, like devolving more local roads to alleviate strain on the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LaDOTD), paying staff salaries and benefits with general fund revenue to free up an additional $133 million in gas tax revenue and rightsizing the staffing of the LaDOTD to better reflect Louisiana’s roadway needs.

The Pelican Institute recommends the best way to solve Louisiana’s road funding and financing problems is through public-private partnerships. These partnerships include tolls, road user charges, gas taxes and sales taxes, financing methods and using the private sector to deliver higher-quality infrastructure at a lower overall cost.

Instead of primarily relying on gas and sales taxes as user fee funding sources, the Pelican Institute argues public-private partnerships offer a more equitable solution.

It recommends implementing a users-pay/users-benefit funding source like tolling.

Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the Pelican Institute, said Louisiana should look to its neighbors to better understand the benefits public-private partnerships produce, arguing more of the same won’t improve Louisiana’s roads.

“One needs only to drive on Florida roads for a few minutes to realize how superior the Sunshine State’s highways are to our current system,” Erspamer says. “All Louisianans can agree that our roadways are in desperate need of improvements. By adopting public-private partnerships, we can shift the burden from working families to investors while delivering the transportation infrastructure we need sooner and with more room for innovation. A strong infrastructure and transportation system is vital to bringing truly quality jobs and opportunity back to Louisiana.”

In the coming weeks, the Pelican Institute will conclude the release of its monthly policy solutions with papers highlighting reforms to Louisiana’s Medicaid system, as well as its legal and regulatory structures.

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