Concern about how to pay for needed road and bridge work in Louisiana has transportation officials in the state studying a wide range of options.
Higher fuel taxes, partnering with private groups and registration and
fee increases are among the suggestions being offered to help finance the
state’s $12 billion backlog of road construction, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, LA, reported.
Johnny Bradberry, secretary for the Louisiana Department of
Transportation and Development, said that no decisions have been made about how
to pay for the backlog of road and bridge work, which will cost more than $200
million a year for upkeep.
That being said, Bradberry told the newspaper that “everything is on
the table” in terms of what will go into any proposal. The secretary said he
plans to make his suggestions to state leaders by year’s end so the state
Legislature can get to work on solutions as soon as the 2007 session begins.
The state transportation agency oversees nearly 17,000 miles of roads,
including nearly 900 miles of interstate and 14,000 bridges, The Advocate reported. The annual budget
is $2.2 billion.
Concern about fast-rising fuel prices has many officials trying to
avoid any serious consideration of higher fuel taxes. Truckers and other drivers
now pay 20 cents-per-gallon in state fuel taxes.
Another option that likely will generate a lot of discussion is
allowing the state to partner with private groups to build toll roads and
Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed a bill into law in June that authorizes the
Louisiana Transportation Authority to work out details with private groups to
build roads, bridges or expand an existing facility. The private business would
keep toll revenue in exchange for upkeep.
Any state project proposed by a private contractor would go before the
House and Senate transportation panels for a review hearing. However, lawmakers
couldn’t reject proposed deals.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative