Louisiana's transportation chief said Monday the state will be able to fulfill its plan to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge even after two of the largest banks in the world were eliminated from taking part in the financing.
The $350 million effort would pay for widening a large swath of I-10 between the Mississippi River bridge and the I-10/12 split.
The state of Louisiana expects to finalize a borrowing plan with federal officials this year to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and other w…
The work is to be financed through federal borrowing by using grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds, or GARVEE.
The money is to be repaid by the state over 12 years using a portion of the annual federal aid Louisiana gets for transportation projects.
"We are still committed to delivering a significant portion of the bridge to the split with the $350 million," Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said in a brief interview after he spoke to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Last week the State Bond Commission barred Citigroup Inc., the nation's third largest bank, and Bank of American Merrill Lynch, the second largest, from taking part in the Baton Rouge and two other projects.
The State Bond Commission barred two of the largest banks in the world from participating in efforts to fund some highway projects in Louisian…
The panel did so amid complaints that both banks infringed on the rights of Louisiana residents to buy guns when they announced new policies after 17 students and others were killed at a high school in Parkland, Fla. on Valentine's Day.
Critics said the commission's actions could drive up costs of the work, including what the state pays for interest rates on the bonds.
Wilson said both banks do significant work on GARVEE projects, which have been launched in 25 other states.
But he said up to 20 other banks will be in play when the financing deals are hashed out.
"There is that potential that you would have a little less money," he said. "I don't think it is anything significant."
Wilson compared the commission's action to someone buying a home but being told he or she could not shop for supplies at Home Depot or Lowe's home improvement stores.
He said the buyer could get the supplies at other stores but may face higher prices.
What sparked criticism from the commission was the decision by Citicorp that it would no longer do business with retailers that sell high capacity magazines or sell guns to anyone who has not passed a background check, as well as other steps.
In April Bank of America stopped lending money to gun manufacturers that make military-like firearms for civilian use.
The panel vote to exclude the banks was 7-6.
Wilson said he could not criticize the decision.
The I-10 widening in Baton Rouge is part of a $600 million plan outlined by Gov. John Bel Edwards in January.
The money will also pay for improvements on I-10 in Kenner at Loyola Avenue to improve access to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
The third project is to improve entry to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City.
Work on both is set to start before the Baton Rouge project.
Wilson said officials think the actual cost of the work will come in close to DOTD estimates.
Exactly how much work is done in Baton Rouge will depend more on details of the expansion than the possibility of rising costs because two fewer banks are involved, he said.
DOTD plans to host three "open houses" next week so the public can see details of the work.
They are Aug. 28, McKinley Middle Magnet School, Aug. 29, Addis Community Center and Aug. 30, Baton Rouge Marriott.
All the sessions will last from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.