The Louisiana Senate
has approved a plan to set aside money to complete the state’s portion of
Senators voted 37-1
on June 16 to advance the bill to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who has endorsed the
legislation. The bill unanimously passed the House in May.
Sponsored by Rep.
Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton, the bill would allow as much as $15 million
dollars annually from unclaimed property funds in the state to be used to help
pay off loans to complete unfinished stretches of the interstate from New
Orleans to the Arkansas border.
funds are turned over to the state by businesses when the rightful private
owners cannot be found.
Supporters of the
bill – HB654 – said the money borrowed through bonds would be used to lessen
the need for federal dollars, The Times-Picayune reported. The total
I-49 funding – which could be as much as $750 million – would be split evenly
to the north and south portions.
Those stretches run
north from I-20 in Shreveport to the Arkansas line and south from I-10 in
Lafayette to the West Bank Expressway in New Orleans.
The revenue would be
used for I-49 when the federal government puts up money for construction.
Approval of the state Bond Commission would then be needed before the bonds
could be sold.
In related news, a
three-state coalition met this spring in Kansas City, MO, to discuss the
completion of an uninterrupted I-49 between Canada and New Orleans.
The I-49 International
Coalition consists of more than 100 community groups and local governments from
Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri.
The group’s plans
call for converting U.S. 71 from Kansas City to the Louisiana border, as well
as a 36-mile stretch from the Arkansas-Louisiana line to Shreveport into I-49, The
Kansas City Star reported. The remainder of that interstate between
Shreveport and Lafayette is already completed.
Members of the group said the roadway would reduce the
Kansas City/New Orleans drive time by about three and a half hours and ease
congestion along other Midwestern highways, the Shreveport Times reported.
The project has an estimated $4.9 billion price tag.
Supporters say the cost would be recouped within six years in time and travel
costs savings, the Times reported.
There is already an interstate from Kansas City to Winnipeg,
Canada. Arkansas is building an I-49 segment that stops just short of the