Gov. John Bel Edwards' proposal to launch $600 million in road improvements, including about $350 million to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge, cleared another hurdle Monday when a key legislative panel endorsed the plan.
The work would be done using federal bonds, which the state would repay using a portion of the state's annual federal transportation allocation.
The governor's proposal was approved without objection by the influential Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, which includes House and Senate leaders.
It next faces review by the State Bond Commission on April 19.
Another legislative panel, the Joint Transportation Committee, approved the plan in February.
Gov. John Bel Edwards' $600 million plan to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and other road projects cleared its first hurdle Wednesday.
The highlight of the package would be the widening of I-10 between the new Mississippi River Bridge and the I-10/12 split.
Under the plan, state officials would strike an agreement with federal officials by pledging to use a portion of yearly federal transportation dollars for Louisiana to pay the debt.
Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said those payments would not exceed $67 million per year for 12 years.
Wilson said 30 other states use Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds, or GARVEE.
Exactly how much of the 3.5 mile-stretch between the "new" Mississippi River bridge and the I-10/12 split will be widened, with one new lane in each direction, is unclear.
Wilson said that, while the entire stretch will be targeted, the work will be done in sections.
"We know it ($350 million) is not going the fund the entire project," he said.
Wilson said officials will have to determine the price to upgrade the existing road, which is about 60 years old, before they know what the $350 million will finance.
State Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, said DOTD officials need to be clear with taxpayers on details of the project.
"I want the public to have as clear an understanding as possible," Edmonds said.
The other key project in the package is up to $124 million for interchange improvements at I-10 and Loyola Drive in Kenner.
That work will aid traffic entering the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where a new addition is set to open in February, 2019.
DOTD officials hope to start getting costs estimates for the Loyola interchange work on April 20 if the plan wins approval from the State Bond Commission the day before.
Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, made the motion for the committee to approve the financing plan.
"We will certainly get a return on that investment," Alario said.
Other projects on the list are up to $95 million to improve the I-20 entrance to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish and up to $12.5 million to help finance replacement of the Belle Chasse bridge and tunnel.