LOUISIANA - Louisiana’s crumbling roads and bridges will eventually see much needed infrastructure improvements following a bill that Governor Edwards signed into law Friday.
This new bill will dedicate an existing tax stream towards the improvement of Louisiana's roads and bridges which can amount to as much as 300 million dollars annually.
"The roads in Texas are way better than they are in Louisiana and I think that with a little bit of extra money being dedicated towards our roads, it’ll make the experience for drivers a lot safer," said Lafayette resident Aleya Domingue.
Many other states rank ahead of Louisiana infrastructure, which currently ranks at 47. With a current backlog of nearly 15 billion dollars needed for the state’s roads and bridges, it’s no surprise that the pelican state received a D-plus from the Biden administration's 2021 infrastructure report card.
"That’s 15 billion dollars worth of work that we should be doing and is needed for you and me on a daily basis and we are not putting the money toward it," said former DOTD secretary Kam Movassaghi.
Louisiana currently funds infrastructure improvements through the use of a 16 cent gas tax which was implemented over 30 years ago. But as inflation continues to rise, the gas tax hasn’t changed to keep up with costs.
"Buying power of the money that we have that comes from a 16 cent gasoline tax is decreasing while our needs are increasing," Movassaghi said.
Following resistance from state legislators to adjust the gas tax in 2017, DOTD secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson says this newest bill will gradually move 60 percent of existing vehicle sales tax from the general fund to be used towards infrastructure.
"The bill further dedicates 75 percent of the funds towards mega projects. Four specifically including I-49 south, Calcasieu river bridge, Mississippi river bridge in Baton Rouge as well as I-49 north," Wilson said.
The 300 million dollars in annual spending is the max. However, Wilson says the amount will be determined based on state revenue with the lowest amount being 150 million dollars.
The transfer of those funds won’t begin until the 2024-2025 fiscal year but the state can begin borrowing money on the future revenue stream immediately.