The heavy lifting needed to get large-scale regional transportation projects off the ground, like a passenger rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, will require a substantial level of local funding and leadership, a senior state transportation official told a gathering of regional planning and transportation advocates Thursday.
“We’re not going to get involved in a service that involves a subsidy from the state,” said Eric Kalivoda, deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
Kalivoda noted a shift in philosophy at the state level of government to have cities and parishes play a larger role in planning and paying for costly infrastructure transportation projects.
“We are not going to impose our vision on the state as a whole,” said Kalivoda, speaking at the Connect Policy Forum at LSU. “We’ll take more of a support role.”
Connect, a local organization that works to bring new resources and new research to the effort of building “super-regional” transportation policy, sponsored the forum. National, state and local transportation and planning officials were on hand to discuss how to grow the New Orleans and Baton Rouge metro areas as a super-region when it comes to development and transportation planning.
“If New Orleans and Baton Rouge were to get this right, you have the chance to be a shining star in the South,” John Robert Smith, a former four-term Mayor in Meridian, Miss., and the president and CEO of Reconnecting America, a Washington D.C. organization that works to grow transit opportunities at the community level, told the forum participants. “But you’ve got to act. You can’t just meet. You can’t just talk.”