The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced that the Louisiana Joint Transportation, Highway and Public Works Committee gave its approval for the department to solicit proposals and enter into a contract for a public-private partnership to build and finance a new Calcasieu River Bridge on Interstate 10 in Lake Charles. The bridge was built in 1952 and needs to be replaced to meet today’s federal highway standards.
This project will extend from the I-10/I-210 west interchange to the Ryan Street exit ramp on the east side of the bridge. The Calcasieu River Bridge and the interstate within the project limits will be reconstructed to ensure that the vertical clearance, horizontal alignment, sight distances and other road and bridge elements meet current design criteria. Additionally, the segment of LA 378 (Sampson Street) from I-10 to Sulphur Avenue will be improved, as well several access ramps and the interchanges at Sampson Street and US 171 to be reconfigured. The total cost of constructing a new bridge is estimated to be between $600- $800 million, dependent on the preferred alternative chosen, of which DOTD has committed $85 million to the P3.
“DOTD has successfully procured funding for various projects in the past by using this innovative method considering the underperforming three decades old gas tax,” said Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “By utilizing a Public-Private Partnership, the only way to move forward with this project is with the help of the private sector and a user fee. The cost of doing nothing is far greater.”
In the transportation industry, P3s generally consist of a private investor providing the necessary capital for construction in exchange for long-term agreement to operate the structure and recoup their investment. This is the third time Louisiana has formally considered pursuing alternative financing and delivery for transportation, as current funding levels severely limit the State’s ability to dedicate revenue to critical capacity projects.
“Citizens have been advocating for this project since I have been elected,” said House Transportation Chair Rep. Vincent Pierre. “I’m proud to partner with DOTD to finally move forward on such a critical project.”
“Our state and Department of Transportation are at the forefront on innovative delivery and financing for infrastructure,” said Sen Transportation Chair Sen. Rick Ward. “This is the first step of a process that will ultimately lead to a new bridge for The critical multimodal corridor called I-10 in Southwest Louisiana.”
“The Chamber SWLA I-10 Bridge Task Force is pleased that the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee has approved LA DOTD moving forward with solicitation for a public private partnership (P3) for the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles. This outdated bridge needs to be replaced and we now have a plan to make it happen. We will continue to seek federal funding to help offset the cost of the project. We very much appreciate Governor John Bel Edwards and Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson for their support and leadership in getting this project moving forward,” said SWLA Economic Development Alliance President George Swift.
Currently, this project is nearing the end of the environmental phase. Three alternative locations have been identified and will be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement. A fourth public meeting will be scheduled in spring 2021 to present preliminary findings that will determine which of these alternatives is preferred. A decision is anticipated by 2022, with a contract scheduled to be awarded in early 2023.
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