Lawmaker proposes tolling stretch of Louisiana highway

| Friday, September 10, 2004

A Louisiana legislator is pushing to toll a stretch of U.S. 90 to pay for repairs on the road.

State Sen. Reggie Dupre, D-Montegut, told members of the Louisiana Transportation Authority Sept. 3 that tolls might be the only way to complete the major link in the planned Interstate 49 extension from Lafayette to the New Orleans metropolitan area.

According to The Advocate, estimates put the cost of replacing the 18 miles of sinking roadway from Boutte to Raceland at nearly $770 million.

The cost is so high because the entire stretch must be elevated and current environmental standards require complex building methods that protect the wetlands under the span, Eric Kalivoda, a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development spokesman, said.

The road would be interstate grade and eventually would be called I-49 once the entire portion of U.S. 90 from Lafayette to the West Bank of New Orleans is built up to interstate standards.

There is no money allotted for the project.

Kalivoda told the newspaper a very rough estimate suggests a toll of about $1 for four-wheelers and about twice that amount for large trucks might raise up to $230 million over 30 years.

That still leaves about $500 million to find from other sources, he said.

Dupre said he might seek funding in next year’s state budget to determine the feasibility of tolls to help finance the project.

The state now uses state and federal revenue from fuel taxes for road funding, but the money falls well short of the amount needed.

Dupre said the escalating price of fuel doomed any effort to hike fuel taxes to pay for more roadwork.

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