Louisiana Taps Unused Earmarks, FHWA Funds to Widen 7 More Miles of I-10

AASHTO Journal, 16 September 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will issue a design-build contract solicitation to widen seven more miles of east-west Interstate 10 in the Baton Rouge area.

Edwards said the plan has the support of the Louisiana State Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee. But because this project would affect travel conditions on the busiest stretch of interstate highway in Louisiana, the governor and DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson requested that the House and Senate chairmen convene a joint committee meeting as soon as possible to authorize the DOTD to begin the procurement process.

capitol0816.jpg Edwards’ announcement said the DOTD plans to expand the I-10 segment to six lanes from four, using authority Congress approved last December to re-purpose some old, unused project earmark funds for projects in the same area as the original earmarked projects.

That, in turn frees up regular federal highway funds for use elsewhere. “As a result, [the] DOTD has pooled enough funds to widen this very critical section of I-10,” the new release said.

The project would reportedly cost more than $60 million, with about $40 million coming from reallocating the old earmark funds assigned to obsolete projects.

And by using a design-build procurement process that lets the same contractor handle both project phases, the agency estimates a 3- to 4-month time savings to get it under way. That means the project should be under contract before this time next year, it said.

The proposed project begins about a quarter-mile west of the I-10/Highland Rd. interchange and ends about a half-mile east of the I-10/LA 73 interchange.

But it would be just the latest planned improvement in the I-10 corridor, which also won a $60 million USDOT Fastlane grant this summer to help widen and replace pavement on part of I-10 from its interchange with I-49 at Lafayette eastward to the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The state had sought $100 million for that project, citing the heavy truck cargo traffic in the corridor.

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