Louisiana Legislature approves bill OK’ing local bridge authority

| 7/9/2007

With transportation officials in Louisiana struggling to find money to pay for road and bridge projects throughout the state, a bill on its way to Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s desk would help foot the bill for a bridge over the Ouachita River.

The Senate unanimously approved a bill – HB626 – that would authorize the creation of the Ouachita Expressway Authority. The House then signed off on changes to the bill clearing the way for it to head to the governor.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, the bill would allow the expressway authority to sell bonds to build a fourth bridge over the river separating Monroe and West Monroe. A Senate change to the bill would give the authority power to levy a tax to help pay for the bridge project that will link state Route 143 with U.S. 165.

Voters would need to approve the tax increase.

With a price tag of about $110 million, the project wouldn’t necessarily be a toll road, The News Star in Monroe, LA, reported. The bill would give the authority power to borrow money and dedicate revenue to pay off bonds without requiring voter approval.

The authority also would have the ability to take land by eminent domain and acquire land by negotiation with landowners. It would be subject to all state public bid and ethics laws, The News Star reported.