BATON ROUGE - Governor Bobby Jindal announced that he will work with the legislature to invest $245.85 million from the 2007-2008 fiscal year surplus in highways and bridges. Governor Jindal emphasized that the dedication of surplus dollars in transportation projects in recent years has made a real impact on the state's roads and bridges, decreasing their deterioration rate. The Governor said more roads are in good shape today as a result of investing surplus dollars, and investing the 2007-08 state surplus in highways and bridges will continue this trend and further improve Louisiana's transportation system.
Governor Jindal said, "We know that the poor condition of our highways contributes to a negative image of Louisiana, increases the cost of doing business here, and makes our highways less safe. We have made many critical investments in our state's transportation system to date, and coupling these surplus funds with those existing investments and those we recently made using federal stimulus dollars, takes us another solid step forward toward improving Louisiana's infrastructure to help our businesses grow and our people succeed."
President of the Senate Joel Chaisson said, "I appreciate the commitment of Governor Jindal and his team in working to ensure that Louisiana's transportation priorities are being met by pledging to support an investment of a significant portion of our state's surplus throughout the state for critical transportation projects."
Speaker of the House Jim Tucker said, "Today's announced funds for statewide transportation projects are important investments towards the state's continued growth - we look forward to working with the administration on other statewide projects."
Governor Jindal said the list of transportation projects compiled by the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to receive surplus funds accomplishes four major goals. First, Governor Jindal said this project list makes every effort to maximize federal funds. With this $245.85 million state investment, he said Louisiana will leverage an additional $251.9 million in federal funding.
Governor Jindal said, "In effect, this announcement represents a commitment of nearly half a billion dollars for highways and bridges in Louisiana."
Second, the Governor said this project list will restore the Fiscal Year 2009 Highway Priority Program that lost an estimated $37.9 million in vehicle sales taxes as a result of the December 2008 Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). Furthermore, Governor Jindal said that in anticipation of revenues continuing to be diverted to the General Fund to mitigate significant budget reductions, surplus funding will be used to make the Fiscal Year 2010 Highway Priority Program whole.
Third, Governor Jindal said surplus dollars will fund capital outlay road projects to make funding immediately available to move Priority 5 projects forward, while also reducing the capital outlay backlog.
Fourth and finally, using the existing Highway Priority Program and other objective criteria, DOTD has created a surplus project list for new capacity, pavement preservation, and/or the repair and replacement of state bridges.
Governor Jindal said the $245.85 million investment of surplus funds for transportation determined by DOTD is divided into four categories:
- The vehicle sales tax "trigger" investment - $79 million
- Investments in new capacity projects - $65.3 million
- Capital outlay investments - $61.1 million
- Investments in statewide highway projects - $40.4 million
The Vehicle Sales Tax "Trigger" Investment - $79 Million
Governor Jindal noted that in Act 11 of the 2008 Second Special Session, vehicle sales taxes were dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund and the law phased in funding and included a mechanism to reverse the dedication and restore revenues to the State General Fund during a budget deficit - as was recently projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference. The Governor said the December 2008 REC forecast, therefore, re-directed Phase One of the dedication - or 10 percent of vehicle sales tax collections in Fiscal Year 2009. In accordance with statute, the dedication of these transportation sales tax funds will only occur when the State General Fund revenue forecast exceeds the Fiscal Year 2009 forecast in place prior to the deficit projection.
Governor Jindal said the recent loss of vehicle sales taxes also means that the Fiscal Year 2010 Highway Priority Program is in jeopardy due to a shortage of funds. Therefore, these surplus dollars will be used to replenish the lost dollars in Fiscal Year 2009 and make the Highway Priority Program whole in FY 10 to allow projects currently programmed to continue as planned. The $79 million in surplus will therefore fully fund both the Fiscal Year 2009 and the Fiscal Year 2010 Highway Priority Program, which will draw down an additional $227 million in federal funds that would otherwise be left on the table.
Investments In New Capacity Projects - $65.3 Million
Governor Jindal announced that $65.3 million of the surplus request will be used for new capacity projects. The Governor announced a $25 million investment in I-49 North from surplus funds - plus $10 million in capital outlay. Governor Jindal said that as a federally recognized corridor of national significance, the completion of I-49 North will receive the largest amount of surplus dollars of any highway project in DOTD's surplus plan.
Governor Jindal said this $35 million total appropriation will be combined with federal, state, and local funding sources to complete another major segment of I-49 North known as Section I, which spans 5.5 miles from LA-173 south to LA-1.
The Governor added that these dollars complement the $17 million in state surplus funds dedicated in the 2008 Special Session and the $42 million in federal stimulus dollars recently approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Additionally, Governor Jindal said DOTD has sent a preliminary notice of intent to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the stimulus-funded Competitive Surface Transportation Grants in the amount of $250 million, which would complete I-49 North.
Rep. Jim Morris said, "I applaud the Governor in his continued efforts to make I-49 North a real priority. Today's announcement is a great step forward, for not only the North West Louisiana, but the state as a whole."
Rep. Jane Smith said, "With the help of Gov. Jindal we are closer than ever to making I-49 North a reality. This is an exciting day and I look forward to working with the administration in seeing that we push this project all the way through."
Governor Jindal also announced a $20.3 million investment in I-49 South - plus $10 million in capital outlay.
Governor Jindal said, "This total $30.3 million dedication will continue to upgrade US-90 to meet interstate standards and work toward the long-term goal when Interstate 49 spans the state from Arkansas to New Orleans. Although the ultimate project cost is $5 billion, there are immediate steps that Louisiana can take to alleviate congestion and improve this critical economic development and hurricane evacuation corridor."
Governor Jindal said $5 million of this investment will continue the widening of US-90 from four to six lanes. He said that it will pick up where the $20 million widening project from the surplus in the 2008 Second Special Session left off, so that US-90 will be six lanes for another two miles from Morgan Street to the bridge over LA-182. The Governor said another $1 million of this investment will add turn lanes on US-90 in the same area. The $10 million from capital outlay will speed up the Priority 5 non-cash line-of-credit from the 2008 Capital Outlay Act to free up funding for the construction of the LA-318 interchange on US-90 near Four Corners, Louisiana, in St. Mary Parish.
On the southern end of I-49 South near New Orleans, the Governor said $13.3 million will build turn lanes and improve interchanges along US-90. The Governor also said $1 million will fund a study to explore all possible avenues for design and construction of I-49 South - with the goal to find alternate solutions and decrease the overall project cost.
Governor Jindal announced that the DOTD surplus plan also includes an investment of $20 million in I-12 in Livingston Parish.
Governor Jindal said, "We already worked with the legislature to dedicate $100 million in the 2008 Second Special Session to widen Interstate 12 from Baton Rouge to Denham Springs. This is a dangerous stretch of interstate with high congestion levels and Livingston Parish continues to be one of the fastest-growing regions in the state.
"This $20 million investment will supplement that initial investment to ensure the widening extends beyond the Range Avenue exit in both the eastbound and westbound lanes. As a result, commuters from Denham Springs to Baton Rouge will not need to merge into existing traffic. The widened lanes will facilitate the flow of traffic at peak morning hours at this important interchange."
Capital Outlay Investments - $61.1 Million
Governor Jindal announced that $61.1 million will be used for Capital Outlay highway projects. The Governor said this will provide funding for all highway projects in Priority 5 in the Capital Outlay Act that are "ready-to-go" in Fiscal Year 2010. There are 16 projects totaling $61.1 million that meet this criteria across the state - in north and south Louisiana, in rural and urban areas.
This includes $58.6 million moved from Priority 5 non-cash line-of-credit to Priority 1 and $4.2 million in supplemental funding to mitigate inflation or unexpected costs so the projects can proceed right away.
The Governor highlighted that the backlog of committed projects with a non-cash line-of-credit is more than $1 billion. He said that using surplus funds is the equivalent of moving projects into Priority 1, which would require a sale of General Obligation bonds. However, using the surplus funding reduces the demand on General Obligation bonds.
Governor Jindal said, "By using surplus dollars for capital outlay road projects and higher education, funding is not only immediately available to move these projects forward, but progress is also made toward reducing the backlog in capital outlay."
Investments In Statewide Highway Projects - $40.4 Million
Lastly, Governor Jindal announced that the final area of investment is $40.4 million for statewide highway projects.