Without infrastructure, there can be no economy.

Herein lies the problem:

  • Forty-two states have better road conditions than Louisiana.
  • Forty-seven states have better bridges.
  • Baton Rouge and New Orleans make up two of the nation’s five worst regions for truck commerce.
  • Our road fatality rates are among the highest in the country.
  • All of our neighbors invest more in roads than we do.

Louisiana hasn’t adjusted its gasoline tax in 27 years. By contrast, 27 other states have recently raised their gas tax (20 with Republican governors). As a result, we have a $13 billion backlog in road maintenance needs plus “megaprojects” in almost every region, which, as they languish, are creating added congestion and hindering economic growth.

And, beginning next year, Louisiana won’t even be able draw down its full allocation of federal transportation funds because there will not be sufficient funding for our state’s matching dollars. This means our federal tax dollars will go to other states.

In the context of this infrastructure crisis, GNO, Inc. supports House Bill 632, which increases investment in infrastructure via our state gas tax.

The revenue generated by this bill would fund megaprojects across the region, including the “airport flyover,” the new interstate exit needed for our new airport terminal. It funds a new bridge to replace the Belle Chasse tunnel, a choke point for entering and exiting Plaquemines Parish. It provides funding for I-49 South through St. Charles Parish. The bill would provide funding to improve connectivity via I-12 in St. Tammany Parish and widen I-10 in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. The Florida Avenue Bridge and approaches in St. Bernard would be replaced. It also provides revenue to improve our ports system, which is critical as we compete with other ports around the country for increased traffic since the expansion of the Panama Canal.

These are only some of the projects in our region that would receive funding should the bill pass. The bill also provides funding to improve bridges in every parish in Louisiana, as well as district-selected priorities, so all of Louisiana will benefit should this bill pass. For a full list of what would receive funding in our region, visit drivinglaforward.com/southeast-region/.

Constituents across the state have rightly expressed concerns that money will be misused for political purposes, as it was in the past. This bill aims to prevent the misuse of funds from occurring. House Bill 632 safeguards all of the money raised by dedicating it exclusively to infrastructure needs; the bill specifically prohibits any revenue being used for DOTD salaries or benefits. DOTD will also be required to provide an annual public report listing projects to be completed in the next fiscal year, based on data-driven project prioritization, as well as report on the progress of ongoing projects.

Recently, out-of-state groups have criticized this bill and threatened lawmakers who support it. While these groups parachute in and out of Louisiana, opposing efforts to improve our business infrastructure, GNO, Inc. and our economic development partners across the state are here to stay. We will continue our work to grow our economy and make our region an attractive place to do business — but we need a safe, reliable and modern infrastructure system in order to be successful.

GNO, Inc. thanks our legislators who have supported the gas tax in the Ways and Means Committee, and urges all of our legislators to vote in favor of the bill when it comes before the full House.

Michael Hecht is president of Greater New Orleans, Inc., a regional nonprofit that promotes economic development.