(The Center Square) – Louisiana is set to receive $1 billion over the next five years to improve 400 bridges throughout the state as part of the Bridge Formula Program included in the bipartisan infrastructure package.
Gov. John Bel Edwards last week announced the funding for Louisiana, which includes $202.6 million this fiscal year. In total, the bridge program administered through the Federal Highway Administration will dedicate $26.5 billion to states to help improve about 15,000 of the 45,023 bridges in poor condition nationwide.
“Louisiana will be well served by this program, as our funding needs for infrastructure projects are immense,” Edwards said.
“Bridge closures or weight restrictions severely hinder our agriculture, manufacturing and service industries, as well as public transit, commuter travel and school bus routes,” he said. “Limiting closures will provide a better overall quality of life to our residents, motorists and businesses.”
Louisiana is one of only seven states set to receive more than $1 billion through the Bridge Formula Program, which awarded the most to California at $4.2 billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration website.
Federal data show Louisiana has the seventh most bridges in poor condition with 1,634, behind only Iowa with 4,571, Pennsylvania with 3,353, Illinois with 2,374, Oklahoma with 2,326, Missouri with 2,190, and New York with 1,702.
States are set to receive a total of $5.3 billion, with another $165 million going to tribes, during the first year of the program, which also covers “off-system” bridges, or bridges owned by counties, cities, towns or other local agencies that do not fall under the federal-aid highway system.
Louisiana has the third largest bridge infrastructure in the nation when considering number and size. Currently, there are 7,846 state owned bridges, with 795 in need of major repair or replacement, as well as 4,736 locally owned bridges, with 793 in need of repair or replacement, according to an Edwards news release.
Federal guidance issued with the program eliminated a typical 20% state or local funding match, meaning states can use federal funds for 100% of local off-system projects.
“This new federal investment comes at the right time as many of our bridges, including those on the interstate system, are 45 to 65 years old,” Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said. “The number of bridges falling into poor condition is expected to increase greatly in the coming years and this funding will allow us to make necessary improvements before these bridges deteriorate to the point of closure. Having shared bridge closures with the public for some time, no parish is exempt and problems exist on state and local bridges alike. I am looking forward to using more than the minimum established by USDOT to help locals address their needs as well.”
The department identified at least 17 projects in 15 parishes set to advance in 2022.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, the only member of the state’s House delegation to vote for the infrastructure law, touted his work on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to help bring the nation’s largest investment in bridges to life.
He cited specific bridge projects advancing this year due to the funding: US90Z Harvey Canal Tunnel in Jefferson Parish, US 61 Jefferson Highway Overpass in East Baton Rouge Parish, the LA 47 Intracostal Waterway Gulf Outlet Bridge in Orleans Parish, and LA 404 Bayou and Canal Bridges in Iberville Parish.
“Repairing our bridges will make our community safer, create jobs in our local economy, allow commerce to move more efficiently, and help us stay connected,” Carter said.