Today, Governor Jindal signed HB 370 by Rep. J Smith, a Governor's Package Bill that bonds out funding to invest in I-49 North construction, which along with funding in the Governor's capital outlay bill, secures the $160 million necessary to complete I-49 north from the Arkansas line to I-220. The Governor was joined by state and local leaders for the bill signing at the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.
Governor Jindal said, "The completion of I-49 North has always been a major transportation and economic priority for our administration, and this bill coupled with our capital outlay investments, means I-49 North will soon be completed, after years of waiting. We know completing I-49 North from Shreveport to Kansas City will yield between $17 and $36 billion in economic activity for our nation over a 20-year period. This corridor is vital to economic development and job creation for not just Northwest Louisiana, but for our state and our nation."
HB 370 expands the purposes for using the Unclaimed Property Fund by allowing bonds to be issued by the State Bond Commission, and thus provide maximum flexibility in dedicating critical funds toward the completion of I-49 North.
DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas said, "The I-49 North projects will open a vital north/south connector helping goods to move more quickly across the country and through Louisiana. Now with the passage of Governor Jindal's bill and the planned capital outlay investment, the vision of the greater northwest region is one step closer to becoming a reality."
Representative Jane Smith said, "Governor Jindal has been instrumental in ensuring this project will be completed. This road will open our northern border to the rest of the nation, allowing even more business and commerce to flow into our state, which is a great win for Louisiana and specifically our region."
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover said, "This is a historic day for Shreveport. To say we've now got the money as well as the roadmap for completing I-49 North means a lot to our community, and I applaud Gov. Jindal for continuing to make this corridor a top priority of his administration. When this road is finally completed, our communities and businesses will be open to a whole new sector of national commerce, which will truly benefit both our region and our state. I have no doubt I-49 North will positively impact communities all across Louisiana and I'm glad to see we're that much closer to making this dream a reality."
Brian Bond, Chairman of the Board for the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce said, "The Governor has been supportive of this project from day one. This announcement on funding supports more than just a road, it's a major economic development announcement that will enhance and further cement the Shreveport area's importance to economic growth in Louisiana."
Tommy Clark, Chairman of the Board for Bossier Chamber of Commerce said, "The commitment by the Governor to fully fund and complete I-49 North helps support the continued growth of our businesses and workforce in the Bossier community. We appreciate his efforts to ensure the success of the state."
Bob Gorman, Chairman of the I-49 North Coalition said, "Before the governor came into office, the completion of I-49 seemed impossible. The governor, legislators and the state have proven to be great partners in bringing our area to the economic forefront. Projects like these support businesses and help to enhance the economic development of our region."
Governor Jindal first announced this legislation in January in order to invest the estimated $60 million needed to construct the 4.25-mile "J Segment" -- from MLK Boulevard to LA 1, one of the two remaining segments for I-49 North. Depending on the conditions of the financial market, this bonding effort could generate $87 million - $27 million more than would be needed for Segment J, leaving additional funds for Segment K to cover the $100 million estimated cost of the final section. Segment K will run from I-220 to Martin Luther King Boulevard, a distance of approximately one mile. Construction is expected to begin on Segment J in summer 2012 and segment K as early as summer 2013.
Following the $10.5 million in Priority 2 bond funds announced last year, the Governor's capital outlay bill for Fiscal Year 2012 includes a $12 million Priority 1 appropriation, which moves a non-cash line of credit to a cash line of credit, making the funds immediately available for this important project. The bill also includes $7.5 million from the Unclaimed Property Leverage Fund, as well as $73 million in new Priority 5 future funding for the I-49 project. The combination of these funds, along with the signing of HB 370 into law, provide for I-49 to be complete from the Arkansas line to I-220.
Governor Jindal said DOTD has now bid a total of nine contracts for construction on I-49 North projects - valued at a total of $460 million. A total of 31 of 36.25 miles of I-49 North are fully funded and under construction or will be under construction this year. Including the newly-acquired funding, Governor Jindal has invested a total of $325 million in this critical corridor - more than half of the total project cost of $622 million and well ahead of the federal investment in this road.
The I-49 corridor project represents an important link in the national, as well as Louisiana's, transportation network. It will increase the transportation efficiency for industries dependent upon trucking by facilitating the shipment of raw materials and finished products. Further, intermodal connectivity will be enhanced by linking transportation hubs such as the Shreveport Metropolitan Area, Port of Caddo-Bossier, Shreveport Regional Airport, KCS Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad. The facility will benefit rural communities in the corridor by improving access to employment and services in the Shreveport Metropolitan Area and decreasing emergency response times. In addition, safety will be enhanced as traffic shifts from existing two-lane to four-lane highways.
By 2020, the new corridor is expected to carry up to 37,000 vehicles a day. Additionally, since local traffic patterns will shift, the I-49 extension in Louisiana will alleviate current and projected congestion on a number of existing highways in the corridor, including US 71, LA 1, LA 2, LA 3, LA 173, and LA 538.
I-49 from that Arkansas line to I-220 is estimated to be complete in 2016.