The bulk of the financing to widen Interstate 10 stems from a federal law that gives states new flexibility on how to allocate dollars, officials said Wednesday.
The project, which will cost upwards of $60 million, was announced Tuesday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The route extends from Highland Road in Baton Rouge to La. Hwy. 73 in Ascension Parish, which is the Prairieville/Geismar exit.
The widening is seen as a way to ease traffic tie-ups on a coast-to-coast interstate that is regularly slowed in the Baton Rouge area, including the seven-mile stretch set to get one new lane in each direction.
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However, state officials had to use some creative financing to make it happen.
And a federal law that allows states to "re-purpose" federal funds previously set for other projects is the key ingredient.
The law permits the state to use certain earmarked federal dollars, including leftovers from previously finished projects and those where less than 10 percent of earmarked dollars were obligated and the aid was more than 10 years old.
Those options will supply $43.7 million of the work, Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said in an email response to questions.
"We have been asking for this language for the past 10 years," Wilson said in an interview. "It is not a new concept."
The federal law is called Fast Act.
It won congressional approval in 2015.
The list of re-purposed projects includes $15 million for five Baton Rouge area projects, including $2.7 million in improvements to Essen Lane at I-12 that are not feasible now.
Also, $9.6 million was scheduled for construction of an interchange at La. 16 and I-12 and improvements on the Cook Road Extension in Livingston Parish.
Projects that are advancing, like Cook Road, will have those federal dollars when needed, Wilson said.
Edwards told reporters Tuesday that, without the state's plan, Louisiana would be in danger of losing money to other states.
Work in Lake Charles, $9.6 million; Shreveport, $9.5 million and New Orleans, $4.1 million, is also being revamped to help with the interstate widening.
The new form of financing is needed to make the I-10 expansion a reality.
The state faces a $12.7 billion backlog of road and bridge needs, and previous efforts to come up with solutions have failed in the Legislature.
A task force named by Edwards is set to make recommendations of its own in January, including how to finance big-ticket projects statewide.
However, any such plan, including a boost in the gasoline tax, would face hurdles in the Legislature, especially after record flooding last month forced thousands of south Louisiana residents out of their homes.
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In his email, Wilson said the state will have to come up with $10.9 million to match the $47.7 million in federal dollars – $54.6 million.
Additional money will also have to come from state coffers.
The exact pricetag of the I-10 widening is unclear.
The state plans to use a process called design/build, which means it will be handled by a joint team of highway designers and builders, rather than having those steps done separately to save time.
Costs and how long the work will take will depend on the bids, officials said, and work is expected to begin in one year.