In its final report, a task force named by Gov. John Bel Edwards said a yearly $700 million tax and fee hike for roads and bridges is needed because "nibbling around the edges" will not solve transportation problems that have sparked complaints statewide.

An increase of up to 23 cents per gallon in the state gasoline tax is one of several possibilities in the mix.

"The transportation plan moving forward must be bold and aggressive as the problem is large and acute," according to the 56-page study.

"Nibbling around the edges with an incremental increase in infrastructure investment will not fix the problem  and will erode public trust," the report says.

The study follows a six-month review by the governor's 18-member task force, including legislative, business and industry leaders.

The panel held six meetings at the State Capitol and eight regional meetings around the state.

The recommendations were due to Edwards by Jan. 1, and the governor is expected to make the report the basis of his transportation plan for the 2017 regular legislative session, which begins April 10. 

Whether Edwards adopts the $700 million is unclear.

Any such plan would spark controversy, and tax hikes require two-thirds majorities in the state House and Senate.

If the state relied on a gasoline tax increase alone that would require a boost  of about 23 cents per gallon to raise another $700 million per year.

In addition, the state's ongoing financial problems would complicate any push to raise dollars for transportation alone amid clamoring for money by colleges and universities, health care and other key services.

State Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson, co-chair of the panel, and others have said for weeks that Louisiana's 20 cents per gallon state gas tax has to be increased to make a dent in road and bridge needs.

The state has a $13.1 billion backlog of transportation and a separate, $16 billion list of popular mega projects, including a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge south of the current one.

A new bridge alone would cost more than $1 billion.

The Baton Rouge area is considered one of the most congested parts of the state, and the site of daily complaints from motorists about lengthy backups.

The report devoted considerable space in making the case for a hike in the gas tax, which is 38.4 cents per gallon when federal taxes are included.

The state's gas tax includes 16 cents for rank and file projects — established in 1984 — and 4 cents to finance projects statewide under a 1990 program called TIMED.

"Most alarming in analyzing the history of the motor fuel tax is the growing gap in the time between adjustments," according to the report.

"This has led to a tremendous backlog of needs to accrue at an accelerating rate, which will continue if not addressed," it says. 

The 16 cents in place now has a purchasing power of 7 cents, the task force said.

The report said 44 states have taken action more recently than Louisiana to offset the impact of inflation on gas taxes.

"For Louisiana to have a safe, reliable transportation system that limits congestion and facilitates economic growth, it cannot stay among the six states that have failed to act since 1990," the task force study says.

The report also addressed criticism from legislators and others that DOTD is doing a poor job with its existing resources.

Just 4.4 percent of DOTD's budget is used for administration and support services, according to the study. 

"Through the travels and discussions across the state, there is a common misconception that transportation revenue in the state has been misused in the past and that trust must be regained before increasing the investment to address the state's needs," according to the report.

Complaints that transportation dollars were moved to State Police overlook the fact  that a 1990 statewide vote authorized the transfers, the study says. 

However, that practice has since ended.

While a boost in the gas tax would be the key source of any funding increase, the task force also recommended hikes in special permit fees for commercial trucks and putting those dollars into a bond issue to improve bridges statewide.

The panel also recommended linking the gasoline tax to inflation or other factors; tolls and public/private partnerships for major projects.

The report was to be formally released on Friday, including a press release from DOTD.

However, state government offices closed at noon amid rain and chilly temperatures.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.