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What's Up With The Bridge?

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The most frequent question we get at The Chamber SWLA and Economic Development Alliance is “What’s Up With the Bridge?”  Of course, these questions center around the progress in getting a new I-10 Bridge in Lake Charles.  The current bridge is well past its lifespan and is the weakest link on the I- 10 corridor between California and Florida. This bridge is structurally sound according to Louisiana Department of Transportation and, if not, would be closed. A lot of money is spent annually to keep the bridge in acceptable shape. 

The recent Louisiana Legislature’s Regular Session was kind to bridge funding.  Through the efforts of the Southwest Louisiana Legislative delegation, funding was increased for the bridge.  The Governor’s budget was modified to put another $100 million toward this vital project.  This now has the state putting up $400 million “cash.” Our entire Southwest delegation should be thanked for their vigorous efforts in getting more funding.  Last year, under the leadership of Senator Rick Ward of Port Allen, the legislature passed a bill that will designate 75% of the motor vehicle sales tax to four Mega-projects:  I-10 Bridge in Baton Rouge, I-49 South, I-49 North, and our I-10 Bridge in Lake Charles. Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez successfully passed a bill that will set up a mega-fund for these four projects and designate $40 million per year from the vehicle sales tax to each of the four projects. 

In August, state officials expect to get an updated cost of the bridge and the approaches. The project also includes a railroad overpass in Westlake. 

The state is pursuing a  P-3, which is a public, private partnership.  There are four companies which are evaluating the state’s request for proposals.  Those proposals are due in February 2023. The original estimate for the bridge was $850 million but now with increased building costs, the estimates could be well over $1 billion.LA DOT is applying for several grants under the recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which could provide additional funding. 

After the updated cost estimate is received, the state can then determine if they can bond enough for the bridge to be built without a toll.  Senator Mark Abraham and the SWLA delegation have been pushing to get the bridge built without a toll.   While it’s very much desired not to have a toll, we most importantly need a new safer, wider bridge. If a toll is necessary there will be efforts to devise payment of tolls for residents of our five parish area.

At this point, the procurement process is underway as we await the new cost estimates in August. 

The Chamber SWLA ’s I-10 Bridge Task Force has gotten this project  off dead center.  The members of the task force headed by Chair Keith DuRousseau are to be commended for pushing this issue.   Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Dept. of Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson are committed to seeing this project break ground next year.  A new bridge project has languished for over twenty years. The Edwards administration is the first to put up funding and get this new bridge project in motion. For that, we thank Governor Edwards. 

The new I-10 Bridge is a major issue for our region and nation. By September, we should have a better grip on the possibilities.  And in February when the P-3 bids are returned we can answer the question:  Will there be a toll, and if so, how much will it be?

In the meantime The Chamber SWLA will continue to advocate for this important new  bridge to take us safely into the future.        

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