NEW ORLEANS - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Shawn Wilson and local elected officials announced that a major transportation project has been accelerated to improve access to the Louis Armstrong International New Orleans Airport from I-10 and Loyola Avenue. The state of Louisiana is investing an additional $10 million to advance preconstruction activities, including design, that must take place prior to construction. Once the planning phase is complete, designing the interchange will begin immediately. The state was able to reallocate financial resources to fund this phase of the project after being awarded a $60 million FASTLANE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT).
“I made a commitment to the people of Louisiana to bring our federal tax dollars home to invest in our road, bridges and ports,” said Gov. Edwards. “The federal grant frees up financial resources that will allow us to make critical investments across the state, including New Orleans. Funding preconstruction and design is a critical step toward getting this project underway and keeping it moving forward. Once complete, the current interchange will be transformed to provide easier access for the millions of people who use the airport to travel. State, local and federal partners have worked tirelessly to get resources to Louisiana to improve our infrastructure, and I look forward to continuing that partnership to invest in our state.”
“Improving access to the airport will ensure long-term growth and sustainability of the city, region and State of Louisiana,” said Mayor Landrieu. “I want to thank Gov. Edwards and our congressional delegation for applying and working persistently to secure the FASTLANE funds for this project. We look forward to working with our federal, state and local partners to support critical infrastructure improvements in the future.”
The reallocated FASTLANE dollars will be used to fund the preconstruction phase of this project, as well as design and right of way acquisition. Because the Loyola interchange project failed to keep pace with new airport developments, the Edwards administration quickly moved the project forward by using state funds and developing the Interchange Modification Report (IMR) before receiving any FASTLANE funds. The IMR is a detailed study required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to justify any modifications to the interstate.
“The accelerated project delivery being used by DOTD is going to yield savings for this project and the public,” said Secretary Wilson. “This will set this project up to be an excellent candidate for design-build or another innovative construction method once construction dollars are secured.”
“Big Multimodal projects such as this interchange and airport have historically relied on heavily eroded revenue streams like the gas tax and capitol outlay dollars,” said Sen. JP Morrell, Chair of Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee. “Efforts to bring additional federal dollars to the state will relieve pressure on the very limited capitol outlay dollars available at this time.”
The FHWA requires that an environmental evaluation be completed before federal funds can be used for design; therefore, DOTD will begin designing the improvements using state funds with the goal of completing the design at the same time, or before, the environmental evaluation is complete. Following the environmental evaluation and design, the state of Louisiana will acquire right-of-way before bids for construction, which is expected to take about two years to complete.
In April, the Edwards administration formally submitted an application for the federal transportation grant, following through with a commitment from Gov. Edwards to bring federal dollars back to Louisiana to reinvest in infrastructure. In July, Gov. Edwards announced that the US DOT awarded Louisiana $60 million in funding. In total, states across the country requested more than $10 billion in funding with only $800 million available.
In June 2016, Gov. Edwards announced the creation of the Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment. The task force will make recommendations to Gov. Edwards to improve infrastructure throughout the state.
Some of the duties of the task force include: