La. House of Appropriations votes against proposed $500M for new Mississippi River bridge
BATON ROUGE - Plans for a new bridge over the Mississippi River are once again hitting bumps in the road.
A plan proposed by Governor John Bel Edwards to use $500 million in surplus dollars to fund a down payment for a new bridge was stifled Monday at the State Capitol. Instead, lawmakers say they want to use $100 million for road preservation projects, and the remaining $400 million will go into what they call a "RADIAL fund."
RADIAL is an acronym, that stands for "Revitalizing And Developing Infrastructure In All of Louisiana." The funds in this pot will go towards repairs to a bridge in Lake Charles, construction work on I-49 and the proposed new bridge.
“It was a bit of a surprise to us that this fund was created to put all projects into one fund. We obviously advocated 100 million dollars for Lake Charles, 100 million dollars for I-49 and then 500 million dollars for the Baton Rouge bridge. I think it’s important that there be a sum certain, hopefully at that level, for the bridge so there’s no uncertainty as to where the money is going," said Jay Dardenne, Commissioner of Administration for Gov. Edwards.
The estimated cost of building a new bridge is around $2.5 billion. Dardenne said Monday at a Press Club meeting that the $500 million was meant to be a 20% down payment to show investors and the federal government that the state was serious about the project.
Lawmakers argued against the proposition, saying a bridge without a definite location does not need a definite investment. Dardenne says, the Edwards administration isn't giving up without a fight.
“It wasn’t what we wanted at the first step but it didn’t completely gut what we’re hoping to have happen so we’re going to continue talking to legislators and I hope the public is going to make their voices heard," said Dardenne.
The bill goes to the House floor Thursday for debate. Public hearings for the new bridge start next week.
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