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Rep. Barbara Freiberg files comprehensive infrastructure proposal

Baton Rouge – State Representative Barbara Freiberg (R-Baton Rouge) has filed legislation to provide comprehensive and sustainable investment to address the state’s inadequate and deteriorating transportation infrastructure system.

“Major economic development groups, chambers of commerce and a diverse coalition of other organizations across Louisiana have rallied in support of this infrastructure funding proposal,” said Rep. Freiberg. “Even with promising news from Washington on infrastructure, we know with our state’s current funding mechanisms, we are not positioned to confidently compete for and maximize federal dollars even at current funding levels. We have instead relied on recent general fund bailouts to match all available federal funds. This must end. The time has come for Louisiana to invest in its transportation system to grow our economy and provide citizens a safe and efficient network we are proud of.”

Louisiana currently pays the seventh-lowest motor fuels tax in the nation. With the successful passage of this legislation, Louisiana’s motor fuels tax would still be lower than the national average.

The legislative proposal, previously promoted by Rep. Jack McFarland, includes reform measures such as permanently shifting four cents of the existing 16 cents dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund directly towards construction projects. The Transportation Trust Fund Sub-Fund, created jointly by voters and the legislature in 2017, currently contains no money for construction. The purpose of the Sub-Fund, however, is to guarantee all dollars allocated to the fund go towards direct project costs. Under Rep. Freiberg’s legislation, 60 percent of revenues will go towards preservation projects, repairing and improving existing roads and bridges, and 40 percent towards the much-needed larger new capacity projects.

“The ongoing dialogue from around the state and Washington makes it clear infrastructure investment is finally a priority among elected leaders. We have debated this investment long enough. Now is the time to act,” said Rep. Freiberg. “Not since the construction of the interstate system has there been such effort to get our transportation system in a competitive position for future generations of our people and economies.”

Rep. Freiberg also highlighted the legislation’s ability to help the state recover from COVID-19, including job creation. “There is universal agreement from stakeholders and elected officials at all levels, that comprehensive infrastructure development spurs job creation and economic growth. The rate of return on a dollar invested is undeniable. Whether you agree or disagree with President Biden’s approach to funding infrastructure, Louisiana must not miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage our own investment with that of the federal government—and the private sector—and enact a solution now.”

Unlike Rep. Freiberg’s proposed legislation, prior attempts to fund infrastructure improvements did not address additional accountability and transparency. “If we are asking people to invest additional funds, they deserve to know what they are paying for and when and where they can expect results,” Rep. Freiberg said. Thirty-four other states have increased investment in their roads and bridges since 2013, including every southern state.

Major capacity projects prioritized in the proposed legislation include:

New I-10 Calcasieu River bridge with connectors at Lake Charles,

I-49 South from the I-10/I-49 interchange at Lafayette to New Orleans,

New Mississippi River bridge at Baton Rouge with connectors,

Widening of I-12 to six lanes from Baton Rouge to the Mississippi state line where not yet upgraded,

US 90/Port of New Orleans access improvements with improved and maintained lighting in New Orleans,

New Jimmie Davis Bridge across the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier,

Widening of I-20 at Monroe from LA 546 to LA 594,

Alexandria-Pineville Beltway from LA 28 East to LA 28 West.

The legislation also mandates the development of a statewide rural bridge repair and replacement program and the institution of annual fees for electric and hybrid vehicles to ensure equitable contribution to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure system.

“Since being elected to the Baton Rouge Metro Council, I have been a champion for wise investment in our state’s infrastructure. I am encouraged by the robust dialogue on this topic as we approach the legislative session. I respect my colleagues and the various proposals filed and or proposed to be filed and look forward to achieving a long-term solution to this issue critical for Louisiana,” said Rep. Freiberg.

The regular legislative session begins on April 12. Freiberg says her bill will be filed in coming days. A full economic study of the bills’ potential impact from Dr. Stephen Barnes, of the Kathleen Blanco Center for Public Policy is forthcoming.

Details on the current DRAFT posture of the GRIT Act are available here: http://bit.ly/GRITDraftDeets