Governor John Bel Edwards’ current budget proposes setting aside $500 million for the Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge. This is in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in state surplus and federal funds that are targeted to infrastructure projects across the state.
This $500 million is a critical down payment on one of the state’s most important infrastructure projects and is needed to mobilize the federal and private funding needed to make it a reality.
Unfortunately, some say that this money should be spent elsewhere because the project is not ready to start. The truth is that it is already progressing.
The contract to carry out the environmental work is in place. By August, the number of possible bridge locations will be reduced to three. And the solicitation of a public-private partner for the project can begin in 2023.
The process for securing federal funding for megaprojects begins this year. There’s over $1.5 billion on the table, but getting to it requires a dollar-for-dollar match. If we don’t have public funding in place to apply through the program, Louisiana won’t be able to attract the private sector partner we need, and we’ll miss a rare opportunity moving forward. If that happens, we won’t see a new bridge in Baton Rouge in our lifetime, we threaten the growth of our economy and put public safety at risk.
It’s more than a bridge. This is a major economic development project for Louisiana where we compete with other states for a substantial, but limited pool of dollars. We must be ready to move without delay.
Today, we are at a rare time when the availability of one-time state funds is well aligned with the federal government’s interest in investing in important infrastructure. Louisiana must seize this opportunity.
CEO, Ballard Brands