Effort to privatize toll roads advances in Louisiana

| 5/8/2006

A Louisiana House panel has unanimously approved a bill that would allow the state to partner with private business to build toll roads and bridges.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted May 1 to advance the bill to the full House for consideration. If approved there, it will move to the Senate for consideration.

Sponsored by Rep. Roy Quezaire, D-Donaldsonville, the bill initially applied to projects, dubbed “megaprojects,” costing at least $250 million, The Times-Picayune reported. However, that threshold amount was withdrawn in committee.

Affected projects could include the expansion of Interstate 10 or the completion of the southern leg of Interstate 49 from Lafayette to the West Ban Expressway in New Orleans.

The bill – HB1294 – would authorize the Louisiana Transportation Authority to work out details with private groups to build roads, bridges or expand an existing facility, The Times-Picayune reported. The private business would keep toll revenue in exchange for upkeep.

Any state project by a private contractor would go before the House and Senate transportation panels for a review hearing. However, lawmakers couldn’t reject proposed deals.