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Federal Funding has Potential to Free Up Money for Other State Projects

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Federal Funding has Potential to Free Up Money for Other State Projects

Federal funding has potential to free up money for other state projects

By GARY PERILLOUX Advocate business writer Published: Sep 19, 2007 - Page: 11A

U.S. Rep. Richard Baker and state officials announced $4.6 million in special federal funding has been secured for the Interstate 10 widening project planned between the Interstate 10/Interstate 12 split and Siegen Lane.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will seek bids on that project, expected to cost $50 million to $60 million, in May.

A state surplus led Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Legislature to earmark more than $600 million in one-time transportation dollars for critical projects earlier this year, something that moved the I-10 project up a year.

The federal money locks in the I-10 project because it can only be spent on that work, state DOTD spokesman Mark Lambert said. After a summer 2008 start, construction on the project should take about 30 months, he said. "This is a real help to us," Lambert said.

"What we hope will be the significant thing is the fact that, with I-10 designated a Corridor of the Future, this is really supposed to help us in terms of getting pre-approved for private activity bonds."

Each day, 80,000 or more cars travel the I-10 stretch that backs up in rush hour and has seen congestion worsen since Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana won a competitive process to be named one of the six "Corridors of the Future" by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The $4.6 million is an addition to regular funding for the I-10 work and signals federal recognition that work is urgently needed on the highway stretch.

Baker helped secure funding for Louisiana through the Corridors of the Future program, which aims to reduce congestion in key corridors. Seven states on the Interstate 10 corridor competed for the money, with Lou-isiana obtaining more than half of the $8.6 million granted for I-10. The other money went to an Arizona project, Lambert said.

National funding for the new corridors program this year is $66 million.

In addition to the grant, projects in the corridors program will receive expedited environmental and other reviews by the federal government, Baker said.

The special $4.6 million designation potentially can free up money for other state projects.

DOTD also is using state surplus funds this year to accelerate work on an environmental impact study and construction plans for widening I-10 from O'Neal Lane to Juban Road in Livingston Parish and an environmental impact study and feasibility study for I-10 widening from Siegen Lane to La. 22 in Ascension Parish.

When construction might start on those projects won't be known until DOTD completes those studies and financing is locked in, Lambert said.

For the I-10 split to Siegen project, work will widen the initial two lanes peeling off from I-12 before Essen Lane to three lanes and provide three lanes in each direction all the way to Siegen.

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