Baton Rouge : Charged six months ago with submitting actionable recommendations to Gov. John Bel Edwards by January 1st, the Governor’s Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment submitted its final report on Dec. 30. The Task Force was comprised primarily of business and industry leaders, parish and municipal representatives, modal representatives, and state elected and appointed officials.
“Consistent with the Governor’s charge, we are calling for the kind of sustainable policy solutions that have been proven to be successful in states around the nation,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D., who serves as co-chair. “There is no one-time fix, and future generations and Louisiana's economy need us to make the right decisions today to ensure a better tomorrow. The challenges we face were not created overnight and our solutions must be steady, sustainable, and meaningful."
The Task Force received feedback from communities across Louisiana, with over 700 citizens attending meetings hosted by economic development organizations and metropolitan planning organizations in each region of the State. National experts and elected officials also informed the process.
Among its nine community-driven actionable recommendations, the Task Force called for an additional $700 million in annual recurring revenue for transportation to better maintain the current system and construct the Category A and B megaprojects identified in the Louisiana Statewide Transportation Plan that was updated in 2015. Other recommendations included the use of indexing to prevent loss of purchasing power over time, and the dedication of new revenues to categories of transportation enhancements such as pavement overlays, new roads/lanes to relieve congestion, rural bridge replacement, and other modes of transportation like ports, airports, rail, and aviation. The Task Force also recommended the expanded use of innovative financing methods such as tolling and public private partnerships to supplement additional recurring revenue.
This level of investment can make projects like a new bridge in Baton Rouge, statewide interstate expansion, and multimodal investments possible. It also guarantees the State's ability to match any additional federal funding that becomes available.
“The members of the Task Force took the Governor’s charge very seriously, and together have recommended thoughtful, bold solutions for an acute problem,” said John Basilica who also serves as co-chair and now leads a regional office for a national engineering firm. “If enacted, the Task Force’s recommendations would quickly deliver unprecedented transportation improvements across the entire State.”
While the Task Force report does not specify how to generate $700 million for transportation each year, it does highlight the benefits and timeliness of reliable user-fee models such as the motor fuel tax, aviation fuel tax, and certain commercial trucking fees.
The effective motor fuel tax rate in Louisiana is 16 cents, meaning the average Louisiana driver pays approximately $108 per year toward maintaining and expanding the State’s vast multimodal transportation system. 44 states have increased motor fuel taxes since Louisiana last acted in 1990.
The recommendations, which were adopted unanimously by the Task Force, will be reviewed by Governor Edwards as he prepares his agenda for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session. The report can be found here.