Legislation that includes $125 million for a key project in West Baton Rouge Parish has ballooned into a $690 million bill that covers every corner of Louisiana, which the sponsor said Wednesday boosts chances for final approval.
"We have involved the rest of the state and they can see their project in the bill," said state Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma and House sponsor of the heavily revamped proposal.
Legislation to pave the way for a new lane in each direction on Interstate 12 between the I-10/12 split and Walker, and ease daily traffic bac…
The measure, House 578, has cleared the House and is awaiting action in the state Senate in the final days of the session, possibly Thursday.
The plan began as a relatively modest effort to re-direct settlement funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill to two projects.
One is construction of the La. Hwy. 415 connector just west of the "new" Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge.
A Baton Rouge area road project faces a crucial vote Wednesday in the Louisiana House, nearly half a century after it went on the drawing boards.
It would create a 3-mile flyover between the Lobdell/La. 415 exit and a spot on La. Hwy. 1 between Port Allen and Plaquemine to ease traffic on La. 1 and on and near the Mississippi River and Intracoastal bridges.
The other original target was $150 million to build an 8-mile stretch of elevated highway on La. 1 between Golden Meadow and Leeville.
But the powerful Senate Finance Committee last week added eight projects to the list totaling $415 million, making the legislation one of the biggest of the two-month session.
The new additions include $150 million for Interstate 49 South; $100 million to expand the Jimmie Davis bridge in Bossier City; $40 million for statewide bridge repairs and $15 million to widen Hooper Road from La. Hwy. 3034 to La. Hwy. 37.
Another $50 million would go toward construction of La. Hwy. 3241 from Interstate 12 to Bush in St. Tammany Parish, which voters authorized in 1989.
It is one of two unfinished projects that were included in the TIMED package that were supposed to be financed with a four-cent hike in the state gasoline tax.
Also, $20 million would be used to buy two cranes for the Port of New Orleans to handle increased container traffic, said state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie and a member of the committee.
Each of the additions had unofficial sponsors on the Senate Finance Committee.
The changes could broaden appeal for the bill or bog it down with so many projects, and open the way for still more, that the legislation dies.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said the revamped bill has brighter prospects. "It has regional impacts throughout the state," Cortez said Wednesday.
He said bonding authority spelled out in the legislation will accelerate work on the projects before prices rise.
"They are already on the books, they have already been engineered," Cortez said of the plans. "They are ready to go. We just need money."
Magee has said all along that one of the key challenges was preventing the bill from being loaded up with projects from around the state.
He did just that during debate on the House floor, fending off efforts to revamp the measure with new projects pushed by other House members.
After a lengthy debate, the state House on Wednesday approved a bill that would use some proceeds from the 2010 Gulf oil spill to build the Lo…
But Magee said after the bill cleared the House that he and others began talks with key senators about making additions as well as with Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Magee said the latest list covers every corner of the state, represents economically viable projects and that all are shovel ready.
Louisiana is set to get about $700 million in the next 13 years under the settlement.
The money comes in $53 million yearly installments.
The La. 415 connector and La. 1 work would get installments over five years to advance the projects, with other aid coming from federal assistance.
The legislation would replace a 2014 state law that sends 45% of the money to the Medicaid Trust Fund, 45% to the state's Rainy Day fund and 10% to the Health Trust Fund.
Under the original bill, Wilson's agency would have had discretion on how Deepwater Horizon settlement funds were used for road and bridge projects after completion of the La. 415 connector and La. 1 work.