CHATHAM – Governor Bobby Jindal announced a legislative proposal today to bond out half of the State Highway Improvement Fund, which will generate $325 million to repair nearly 1,000 miles of roads across Louisiana, in nearly every parish.
The State Highway Improvement Fund was created exclusively to fund state roads classified as Non-Federal Aid routes that are not eligible for federal funding. Non-Federal Aid routes are made up of mostly rural roads. Unlike major roadways, Non-Federal Aid routes are not eligible for matching funds from the federal government, which means there is less money available to fund projects for rural roads throughout the state.
Governor Jindal said, "There’s a major need to repair roads in rural parishes. Many of these roads have been severely worn and are unsafe for drivers. The wear and tear is due to rapid economic growth, including the Haynesville Shale boom in Northwest Louisiana and the agricultural industry, and because of natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding.
"The reality is that many of our rural roads have not received any significant repairs in over 30 years due to a lack of funding. That’s unacceptable and we have a solution to bring more dollars to these projects and make sure every part of our state has a solid infrastructure. This legislation shows that we are continuing to make our roads and bridges a top priority so that families in every area of our state have safe roads to travel and businesses have the quickest route possible to move their products."
The State Highway Improvement Fund receives dedicated funding from commercial vehicle registration and license fees. The legislation will bond out half of the State Highway Improvement Fund, and the bonds will be structured so they do not last longer than the life of the roads being repaired.
State Representative Jim Fannin will author the legislation. Rep. Fannin said, "For Louisiana to be successful, we have to provide our rural communities with quality roads, so local businesses can move goods safely and efficiently to better meet the needs of our local and national economy. I’m proud to join the Governor in this proposal and will work closely with the Legislature to get this bill passed for the benefit of our rural communities."
"Improving these roads, many of which haven’t been repaired in over 30 years, will make them safer," said DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas. "Additionally, our farming and natural resource industries will further benefit from enhanced access and ride quality."
"We commend Governor Jindal and the Department of Transportation and Development for investing state funds in the Louisiana’s non-federal aid roads. Many of these roads are in the northern part of the state where the Haynesville Shale natural gas field was named the top producing field in the United States during 2011," said Kevin McCotter, Vice President - Corporate Development of Chesapeake Energy Corporation. "The Haynesville Shale has been a massive economic engine for investment, job creation and state and local tax payments over the last several years and these investments in roads will ensure that Louisiana remains competitive with other natural gas and oil producing states."
"I so appreciate Governor Jindal’s support of Louisiana’s rural highways," said Robert E. Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Tango Transport, LLC. "By improving both local and regional access he is helping to strengthen economic development across the state."
"In northwestern Louisiana, because of the many businesses, employees and trucks that poured into the region related to the Haynesville Shale natural gas exploration, we’ve felt some growing pains," said Don McClure, vice president of government, stakeholder relations and legal for Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. "Investments in rural roads only strengthens our economic future and we appreciate the Governor’s support of our industry."
Since taking office, Governor Jindal has invested more than $4.1 billion for transportation projects throughout Louisiana, which translates into more than 1,700 transportation system improvement projects, including roughly 4,000 miles of roadway and 446 bridges. Additionally, for the first time in a decade, Louisiana’s backlog of road and bridge projects has been reduced by $1.6 billion.