Advocate Washington bureau
August 23, 2012
WASHINGTON – Louisiana is set to receive $10 million in federal funds for roads and infrastructure projects previously earmarked and sitting in limbo.
The money is part of $473 million in total federal funds being released nationwide for roads and bridges projects. The funds were once earmarked for local projects by members of Congress, but the GOP-controlled House and President Barack Obama are now opposing the use of congressional earmarks, frequently called pork-barrel projects.
Some of the earmarks date back as far as 2003.
Obama and federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the announcement Friday afternoon, but state government officials said Monday and Tuesday they are still trying to figure out how and on what the funds will be allocated.
“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” Obama said in the announcement. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
“We’re releasing these funds so Louisiana can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work,” LaHood added.
Some Republicans questioned the timing of the move by Obama in a re-election year.
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas said in an email response: “We’re evaluating the proposal to see if there are any strings attached. At the end of the day, these dollars were obligated for Louisiana and will be used in Louisiana.”
The move by the Obama administration requires the funds to be allocated by the end of the year.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said in a prepared statement: “These funds are a great opportunity for the state to address our roads, bridges and other infrastructure that are in desperate need of repair. Our oil and gas industry, our trucking industry and our small businesses all depend on safe, solid infrastructure for commerce to run smoothly. I urge the state to take the necessary steps to ensure that these funds that were intended for Louisiana stay in Louisiana.”
Louisiana has 17 projects that are eligible to receive parts of the available $10 million for the state.
One of the potential projects is the ongoing widening of Interstate 12, including by Essen Lane. This is part of the ongoing expansion of I-12 from the Interstate 10 split to Siegen Lane.
Other projects include the expansion of I-10 in Crowley, the widening of Interstate 20 in Caddo Parish from Shreveport to the Texas state line as well as the expansion of Interstate 49 in northern Louisiana to Arkansas.
Alabama is set to receive more than any other state with more than $51 million for 33 projects. California would get $43 million and Texas would receive more than $30 million.
Wyoming is the only state that would not get any additional funds.