Louisiana Legislature OKs funding package for I-49

| 7/3/2007

The Louisiana House and Senate have approved a package of bills that would authorize $95 million in new funding to help complete the state’s portion of Interstate 49.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed a $1.9 billion surplus spending bill – HB765 – earmarking $60 million spent on the northern portion of I-49.

A separate bill still atop the governor’s desk would direct $15 million from unclaimed property funds in the state to an account for work on the north and south portions of I-49. A provision dropped from the bill in the Senate called for a one-time diversion of $30 million from the state’s general fund to the unclaimed property fund.

Unclaimed property funds are turned over to the state by businesses when the rightful private owners cannot be found.

All money would be split evenly to the north and south portions of I-49. Those stretches run north from Interstate 20 in Shreveport to the Arkansas line and south from Interstate 10 in Lafayette to the West Bank Expressway in New Orleans.

The bill – HB531 – would allow the money to be used to match with federal funds or be bonded for construction purposes.

Another piece of legislation – HB2 – before the governor includes a provision to authorize selling bonds for I-49. The bonds from the capital outlay bill would amount to another $20 million in funding to be equally divided between the sections of the roadway.

The $95 million in new state funds for the project would ultimately result in a total of $475 million becoming available for work on I-49. The federal government will chip in $380 million in matching funds when the state’s congressional delegation comes up with the necessary federal money, The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, LA, reported.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor