With the Legislature balking at new gas taxes, Gov. John Bel Edwards is taking a shortcut to get some big projects underway, including interstate expansions in Baton Rouge and a new airport terminal exit in New Orleans.
The list is needed, but there will be a long-term commitment: The state will borrow for today’s projects from future federal aid for highways. It’s been done in other states, and it is a legitimate response to the cash crunch for projects, because the need for new airport access, for example, is pressing with the terminal under construction.
Edwards rightly observed that “no reliable funding (is) available” for the big projects, but these are needed despite the long-term borrowing costs, which will sap federal aid that would otherwise go to highways over the next 12 years. At $600 million, it is the biggest one-time investment in highways in a while.
The problem, as state transportation chief Shawn Wilson observed, is that “this does not solve our transportation funding problem.”
Louisiana is falling behind in highways and other infrastructure. We’ve not raised the gasoline tax in decades. That still should be addressed by the Legislature, whether lawmakers want to raise taxes or not. The highways won’t build themselves.