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Chamber SWLA Releases I-10 Bridge Task Force Recommendations for the Replacement of the Interstate 10/Calcasieu River Bridge

Published Friday, January 25, 2019

Southwest Louisiana – The Chamber SWLA released the recommendations of their I-10 Bridge Task Force at a news conference today.

These recommendations, which were approved by the Chamber board on Tuesday, provide the state with a well-researched, detailed action plan to tackle the most critical interstate bridge project in Louisiana by a private venture and without incurring debt or using any tax revenue. More importantly, based on the I-10 Task Force’s proposed plan, the new bridge could be completed within three years with the cooperation of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD).

The current I-10 Calcasieu River bridge opened for traffic in 1952 and was designed for a traffic load of 37,000 per day and a 50-year life span. In 2016, the average daily crossings were over 80,000. The National Bridge Registry has rated the bridge a 6.6 out of 100. By comparison, the Interstate 35 West Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was rated a 50 when it collapsed.

“Replacing this bridge has been topic of concern and debate for decades,” said I-10 Bridge Task Force Chairperson Keith DuRousseau. “The bridge is vital to the economic fabric of our region and we cannot afford to wait while the state and federal government continue to delay and to allocate funds to projects in other areas. Our research was very eye-opening on the various delays and made us even more determined to find a solution.”

The I-10 Bridge Task Force’s due diligence included meetings with multiple Louisiana state agencies as well as experts in infrastructure financing, design and construction. The group also obtained thousands of pages of material from LADOTD via the Louisiana Freedom of Information Act and conducted legal and financial research. In addition, members of the Task Force visited communities in differing stages of securing similar bridge infrastructure improvements to learn from their experiences. 

As a result of their exhaustive research, the I-10 Bridge Task Force concluded that the bridge can only be replaced in a reasonable period of time through an innovative public private partnership called a “P3.” 

“A P3 harnesses private expertise for public benefit,” explains DuRousseau. “It’s a proven, common sense solution for this project. The builder would have to be repaid with the use of electronic tolling like we see in Houston and many other cities across the country.” 

The recommendation for the design of the bridge calls for a new six-lane bridge with shoulders and a pedestrian walkway, located immediately north of, and parallel to, the existing bridge, with ingress and egress at Sampson Street over the railway into the City of Westlake. The current bridge would remain open while construction of the new bridge takes place and tolls would be reduced for local residents. 

This recommendation is based upon the following facts:

  • LADOTD has pledged its federal match dollars for the next 12 years to projects in more populated areas (New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport).
  • LADOTD’s proposed bridge replacement alternatives are estimated to cost $800M in 2018 dollars and do not include ingress and egress at Sampson Street over the railway into the City of Westlake.
  • Value engineering alternatives discovered by the I-10 Bridge Task Force reduce the cost to $400-$600M and these do include ingress and egress at Sampson Street over the railway into the City of Westlake.
  • LADOTD’s annual statewide maintenance and capital improvements budget is $650-$800M.
  • LADOTD’s current infrastructure backlog is more than $13B.
  • A low-interest loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) routinely used by other states is not available because LADOTD defaulted on its TIFIA loan in connection with the LA1 Project.
  • LADOTD’s response to the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request indicates that the 1994 EDC spill contamination is not a cause for delay.
  • LADOTD’s traditional method of delivering mega infrastructure improvements is not a viable option because the state does not have the funds to secure federal match dollars and will not have the funds in the foreseeable future.
  • The proposed gas tax increase will not generate sufficient funds to replace the bridge. 

The next step is for the I-10 Bridge Task Force and the Chamber SWLA to work with the SWLA legislative delegation to file any necessary legislation in the upcoming session and to ask the LADOTD and the governor to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for private ventures to design, finance, construct, maintain and concession the new Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge by entering into the P3 partnership. The I-10 Bridge Task Force recommends that local contractors and vendors be given priority for service to the private venture. It is hoped that the project will start within the next 18 months. 

 “We greatly appreciate the hard work and diligence of the task force,” said Phil Earhart, Chamber SWLA Board Chair. “Thanks to them, we have a well-researched and achievable plan for a new I-10 bridge.”

The I-10 Bridge Task Force concluded that if the bridge is not replaced in the next five years, Southwest Louisiana, the state and the entire country could suffer drastic commercial and strategic consequences, adding that the cost of doing nothing could result in loss of life, devasting traffic congestion, loss of large scale capital investment and distribution delays. “It’s time to come together once again for the good of our region and ensure that a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge is built sooner, rather than later, for the safety and continued prosperity of our region,” says DuRousseau. 

For additional information, download the press conference presentation.

I-10 Bridge Task Force Members

The I-10 Bridge Task Force members were chosen from throughout Southwest Louisiana based upon their history of community engagement, professional skills, credibility, business acumen and desire to spearhead a local grassroots effort to advocate for a new bridge. Each member pledged that their volunteer service would not be used to derive benefit for themselves, their employers or families. The group has worked over the past 15 months conducting due diligence to prepare a recommendation for the replacement of the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge.

  • Dr. Daryl Burckel, President, McNeese State University
  • Ernie Broussard, Hunt Guillot and Associates
  • Ken Broussard, CPA, Owner, Broussard Companies, Inc.
  • Keith DuRousseau, Owner, Keiland Construction
  • Marion Fox, President/CEO, Jeff Davis Economic Development and Tourist Commission               
  • Brent Lumpkin, Owner, Lumpkin Properties, commercial real estate investor, developer, broker 
  • Vernon Meyer, Civil Engineer, Meyer and Associates    
  • John Pohorelsky, Attorney and Past Chamber SWLA Chair
  • Ken Francis, Sales Center Manager, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Past Chamber SWLA Chair
  • Denise Rau, Owner, Rau Financial Group              
  • Rick Richard, Founder, Empire of the SEED  
  • Jim Rock, Site Executive Director, Lotte Chemical USA    
  • Bart Yakupzack, Attorney, Jack Lawton Companies              
  • Tobie Hodgkins, Owner, Century 21 Bessette Realty, Inc., Past Chamber SWLA Chair
  • Philip Earhart, Market President, Iberia Bank, Chamber SWLA Chair
  • George Swift, SWLA Economic Development Alliance/Chamber SWLA President/CEO

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