Letter to the Editor – United for Infrastructure Week

Dear Editor,

Infrastructure is a critical aspect of everyday life. It supports our transportation system and stimulates economic growth for the country. At the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), we are committed to enhancing the quality of life for our residents through our transportation systems.

The week of September 14 marks the beginning of United for Infrastructure: A Week to Champion America’s Infrastructure, a week dedicated to bringing transportation organizations from across the country together to advocate and provide education on the nation’s infrastructure. This year’s theme is fitting as DOTD continues to need more resources and funding to support Louisiana’s motorists. In order to continue preserving our existing roadways and building new roadway systems, we must have a reliable and steady revenue stream. The state relies on a 20-cent gas tax to address infrastructure needs, though more than four cents is dedicated to the TIMED program. After this, remaining revenue goes to the Transportation Trust Fund to address our current needs which has lost more than 50 percent of its value since it hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

Since Governor Edwards took office in January 2016, more than $3.6 billion has been invested toward infrastructure projects throughout the state, totaling to 1,452 projects and nearly 5,000 miles.  In Central Louisiana, over $213 million totaling 141 projects and more than 534 miles has been invested in the form of maintenance and new construction. Some of those projects include the US 71 Railroad overpass replacement project, addition of the Motorist Assistance Patrol service that provides a valuable resource to stranded drivers in most of the state’s metropolitan areas, and two roundabouts to improve traffic congestion and safety at busy intersections in both Alexandria and Pineville.

This fiscal year alone, we will invest an estimated $50 million in multimodal needs, which include critical projects such as the Mississippi River Deepening Project. While significant, this investment pales in comparison to the needs in our state. DOTD has demonstrated it can produce major projects across the state such as the critical investments in roadway safety in the form of several roundabouts in the Central Louisiana (Alexandria) region. The Leesville roundabout at the intersection of LA 184 and LA 468 began in 2018 at a cost of $2.2 million, replacing the traditional 4-leg intersection with a single lane roundabout. Based on crash history, this intersection was a prime candidate for a roundabout to vastly improve safety.

Jackson Street at Horseshoe Drive in Alexandria is now the home to a brand new single lane roundabout, at an investment of $1.8 million for the corridor. Construction began in 2019, replacing the stop-controlled intersection and moving traffic through the residential and commercial area with renewed mobility for both motorists and pedestrians.  In May 2020, work began on the $1 million Susek Drive/Edgewood Drive Roundabout in Pineville. The busy intersection was closed to traffic while the contractor transformed the stop-controlled configuration into a single-lane roundabout, opening the door for greatly improved traffic flow in front of Pineville Junior High School. The project was complete before the new school year began in August, providing reduced congestion through the corridor.  Without a steady revenue stream, new projects will be few and far between as the funding from the 1986 gas tax will be primarily used to maintain the system that is already in place.

Louisiana has four of the top five longest bridges in the United States. And there are more than 13,000 bridges in the state and more than 16,600 miles of roadway. Five Mississippi River ports carry 25 percent of U.S. waterborne commerce, 60 percent of the nation’s grain, and 20 percent of the nation’s coal.  Louisiana also moves goods over nearly 3,000 miles of rail line.  We should build on these resources as opposed to being limited by disinvestment.

Infrastructure matters to our country, economy, and communities, as this is the gateway to providing access to goods, services, and traveling needs. This department works hard to ensure that each vital transportation system is maintained to enhance business development and improve commuter convenience. 

Infrastructure is vital to our economy, our everyday travel, and lifestyle. We often take these benefits for granted as we go about our daily lives. But, as the needs continue to grow, and the funding continues to dwindle, it’s important to take this week to realize how important and impactful infrastructure is to our daily lives.

Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D

Secretary of Louisiana DOTD

Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D
Secretary of Louisiana DOTD

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