Empty promise of $85 million pledged for new I-10 Calcasieu Bridge?

Gov. John Bel Edwards has pledged to include $85 million in next year’s capital outlay bill toward a new Interstate-10 bridge in southwest Louisiana. Whether or not this happens may or may not depend on whether or not he wins reelection– and whether or not Louisiana received federal funds.

In other words, a potentially empty promise, based on a lot of ‘ifs.’

The state is expected to have a surplus of roughly $300 million from the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Some of the surplus dollars would go towards infrastructure projects.

The $85 million would be the state’s match to federal funding that doesn’t yet exist.

President Donald Trump promised to fund the bridge after he is potentially reelected in 2020.

“If we win this election, which is just sixteen months away, we’re giving you a brand new I-10 bridge,” Trump said in May when he was in southwest Louisiana. “So we’re going to start planning and development right away and we’ll have it all set to go, Day 1, right after the election.”

If Edwards is reelected this year, the legislature would need to approve the commitment next year.

If Trump is reelected, Congress would need to approve and appropriate money for the bridge.

“These funds will be ready and available to work with our federal partners when they determine their share of the project,” Edwards said. “This funding commitment is real and positions the state to take full advantage of that offer.”

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is preparing an Environment Impact Statement for the project, a pre-requisite to federal funding, and is in the process of soliciting a consultant “for the innovative delivery of this project,” the agency said.

The bridge opened in 1952 over the Calcasieu River was originally designed for a traffic load of 37,000 per day over a 50-year life span. By 2016, the average daily crossings were more than 80,000, according to the Southwest Louisiana chamber of commerce.

The National Bridge Registry has rated the Calcasieu Bridge a 6.6 out of 100.

By comparison, the Interstate 35 West Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis was rated a 50 when it collapsed in 2007, according to the chamber’s I-10 Bridge Task Force.

The task force said in a January report the only way to replace the bridge “in a reasonable period of time” was to fund a project through tolls and use a public-private partnership to reconstruct the bridge– assuming no federal funds were directed towards the project.

They estimated that to replace the bridge it would cost between $400 million to $800 million in 2018 dollars.



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