This article originally ran in the American Press on 1/20/21
There is a major issue that is badly needed and could possibly unite our elected officials in Washington. That issue is finally taking action on our country’s crumbling infrastructure. Southwest Louisiana is the poster child for outdated and unsafe bridges with the I-10 Bridge over the Calcasieu River at Lake Charles. Built in 1952, this bridge has been in service many years past its lifespan and certainly exceeds its designed vehicle capacity every day.
In December of last year, the Joint Committee on Transportation of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Louisiana Senate gave approval for the Louisiana Department of Transportation to proceed with a public private partnership, known as P-3, for a new bridge. For the next two years LA DOTD will secure proposals from potential companies to design and build the bridge. The companies will need a return on their investment and that will come from a reasonable toll. It will be at least two years before a company is selected and we see the proposal. At that time there will be a public hearing. In the meantime, The Chamber SWLA and its I-10 Bridge Task Force will continue to lobby our federal legislators to support federal funding which will “pay down” the cost of the bridge and the amount to be tolled.
It appears the incoming Biden Administration is receptive to a Federal Infrastructure Plan. This has been talked about for years but no consensus was reached. Now we may have an opportunity. Our state and region have millions of dollars in outdated roads and bridges to be repaired or replaced and so does the entire nation. This should be an issue that all can support regardless of political parties.
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center announced a new initiative — titled “Build By the Fourth ” – calling on Congress to promptly enact a fiscally and environmentally responsible infrastructure package that stimulates the economy. More than 150 organizations, including the Chamber SWLA, have signed on to join this effort. We are urging the newly elected and reelected members of Congress to pass this package by the Fourth of July 2021.
Our nation’s roads and bridges are crumbling, our cities and towns are stifled by gridlock, and our water, energy, and communications infrastructure are outdated. Infrastructure is not a partisan issue — it’s an American priority. Our country cannot wait any longer to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure. As a nation, we must be able to build things promptly to accelerate the economic recovery.
One aspect of infrastructure which needs major investment is broadband especially in our rural areas. Today businesses and students cannot function without adequate broadband. It’s like trying to operate without electricity.
We will be pushing to get a program adopted by congress that will especially help Southwest Louisiana. In addition to the I-10 Bridge which includes the railroad crossing in Westlake, there are dozens of needs in our five parishes.
To accomplish these needed improvements, it takes money and we all know where that comes from. Spending our tax dollars on infrastructure will have a strong return on our investment for generations to come.