LEEVILLE, La. – Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry are scheduled to break ground Friday afternoon for a new La. 1 toll bridge and approaches that will ensure a safe evacuation route for citizens and continued vitality of Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry.
Blanco and Bradberry are two of the main speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony at 4 p.m. here in Leeville.
The governor’s prepared statement said, “The ravages of Katrina and Rita showed everyone in America the importance of Louisiana to this nation's economic health, and just how important La. 1 is to the energy economy. La. 1 is not only the hurricane evacuation route for Grand Isle and southern Lafourche Parish, it's also the main route for Louisiana's vital energy corridor.
"This project is just the first step in a long-term effort to help make the residents of this part of South Louisiana safer and to secure our state's – and the nation's – energy future.”
La. 1 is the sole evacuation route for lower Lafourche Parish and the barrier island of Grand Isle. It also is the only route to Port Fourchon, the nation’s premier intermodal energy port, and to the nation’s only offshore oil port. The U.S. Congress designated La. 1 as a “high-priority corridor” because of its importance to the energy industry.
The road must be replaced and elevated because of flooding and deterioration from subsidence and coastal erosion.
Bradberry said, “If you take all the reasons to build a road or a bridge and stack them together, they all add up to La. 1 – economic development, hurricane evacuation, quality of life, ease of mobility, even national security issues. It’s hard to imagine a more important project to Louisiana than La. 1.”
Henri Boulet, executive director of the LA 1 Coalition, which has worked for more than nine years in support of improvements to La. 1, called the start of the project “an historic milestone, not only for Lafourche Parish and the state, but for the entire nation.”
Actual construction work on the $161.6 million bridge and approaches should begin in May. The contractor, Traylor Brothers/Massman Construction Joint Venture, is scheduled to complete construction by December 2009. The contract includes a $5 million incentive for early completion and a $15,000-a-day penalty for late delivery.
An elevated roadway between Leeville south to Port Fourchon is scheduled for letting later this year. Another major phase of the project includes an elevated roadway from Golden Meadow south to Leeville. The entire La. 1 project, including the bridge over Bayou Lafourche, approaches, connectors and 18 miles of four-laned elevated roadway from Golden Meadow to Port Fouchon, is expected to cost about $1.3 billion.
Some construction costs of the early construction will be defrayed by tolls, which will pay off bonds that DOTD secured through an innovative federal financing program known as TIFIA, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Port Fourchon supports more than 75 percent of the Gulf’s deepwater oil production. More than 18 percent of the entire nation’s oil and gas supply flows from the La. 1 corridor.