Acadiana to receive millions in federal infrastructure funding

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Road work ahead.

Millions of federal dollars will go toward infrastructure improvements in Acadiana, including a major investment in I-49 construction, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday.

Edwards and officials from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Louisiana State Legislature said at a press conference that the state would receive about $216 million for road and infrastructure projects through the 2020 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The $1.4-trillion relief package was passed by Congress last year.

Around $155 million of the federal money can be used at the state's discretion. About $30 million is designated for bridge repair or replacement, and $20 million is set aside for the state's large metro areas. About $11 million is earmarked for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

“As you are all aware, the state’s roads and bridges are in great need of repair and upgrade,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in a release. “Addressing these needs has been a priority of my administration."

Of the total funding, around $50 million is being sent to Lafayette Parish for to-be-determined work on I-49, which has long been on the area's wish list. Another $8 million is dedicated to U.S. 190 utility relocation in St. Landry Parish. Around $2 million will be used for patching and overlay on LA 31 from St. Martinville to LA 92-1 in St. Martin Parish.

The Acadiana Planning Commission is also likely to receive a portion of the $19.9 million set aside for metropolitan planning organizations that cover populations of more than 200,000.

The region could also see money from statewide allocations, such as the $11.3 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

Louisiana's infrastructure has been mentioned by several groups, including the state's business community, as a priority for the ongoing legislative session. Louisiana has a $15-billion backlog in road and bridge maintenance and $13 billion in new projects that need funding.

TRIP, a national transportation infrastructure non-profit organization, released a report earlier this month that detailed the impacts of the state's decrepit roads and bridges. The report said that the state's roads cost Louisiana drivers $7.6 billion a year in extra vehicle operating costs.

In Lafayette, roads cost the average driver about $2,027 each year, including $782 in vehicle operating costs, $738 in congestion, and $507 in crashes. Around 39% of Lafayette's roads are considered to be poor, with another 23% rated as mediocre.

Lafayette's bridges are generally in better condition than the other major urban areas, though 8% of bridges in the area are rated as poor or structurally deficient. Lafayette has about 439 bridges.

Drivers in Lafayette lose about 32 hours a year to traffic and waste about 17 gallons of fuel in traffic. From 2015 through 2019, Lafayette averaged 36 traffic fatalities per year.

There's also been discussions on how to better fund the state's infrastructure budget. A state senate committee passed a bill that would move $800 million from the temporary $0.45 sales tax to the Transportation Trust Fund.

There were also discussions about potentially raising the gas tax to raise more money for road improvements. Louisiana is one of only 10 states that has not raised its gas tax in the last two decades.

"We have proven what we can do when we have funds and have invested over $3 billion in infrastructure since 2016, despite a 1980s revenue stream as the main source of funding," Edwards said in a release. "Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure will benefit greatly from this additional funding, and I know DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson has worked tirelessly to find projects that will be most beneficial.”