BATON ROUGE – Yesterday, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) looked back on its accomplishments in 2021. Between January 1 and December 31, a total of 228 projects consisting of 1,062.12 miles were let around the state, equaling an investment of $630.8 million. 2021 was also DOTD’s centennial year, and the department celebrated in unprecedented fashion. By utilizing several innovative funding methods, such as Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds, public-private partnerships, and design-build contracts, DOTD was able to begin and continue several large-scale projects in 2021 that previously had not had the funding.
With additional resources available in 2022, more projects are scheduled to receive much-needed funding to move forward.
DOTD began as the Louisiana Highway Commission in 1921, authorized by Louisiana’s new constitution that year. There was a one-cent gas tax in place for funding, and the department also had 14 enforcement officers on motorcycles to patrol the state roadways. This unit of the department eventually became the Louisiana State Police in 1936. After the Great Depression, the Louisiana Highway Commission became the Louisiana Department of Highways in 1940. Following a period of time in which resources were strained due to World War II, the department saw much growth, especially with construction beginning in 1957 of the new interstate highways throughout the state. In 1976, the Louisiana Department of Highways was abolished as the legislature established the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
“2021 marked a century of DOTD’s infrastructure investment for Louisiana’s citizens and visitors. While the year was yet another challenging one due to COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida, we were able to achieve numerous milestones,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “We’ve started and completed several major projects, and probably the biggest success stories for the department this past year have been the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by Congress, and the signing of the vehicle sales tax legislation. Our state is set to receive nearly $6 billion in federal funding over the next five years from IIJA, and we will begin receiving at least $150 million in FY 23-24 from vehicle taxes. I’m proud of the things we’ve accomplished in 2021, and I’m extremely optimistic for 2022 and the years beyond.”
The IIJA is the largest dedicated highway and bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system. In addition, Louisiana is well positioned to compete for billions more with the Bridge Investment Program and other major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities across Louisiana, including broadband, resiliency, ports and rail. The IIJA will allow the state to advance several much-needed major road and bridge projects in which funding had not yet been identified. Additionally, the IIJA will benefit the state’s multimodal system, such as waterways, ports, and rail programs. Statewide funding from the IIJA will be allocated to highways, bridges, public transportation, airports, and electric vehicle infrastructure. Additional funding will be allocated to a more resilient transportation system that has the capability to recover from disruptions such as extreme weather. DOTD is grateful to Senator Bill Cassidy and Representative Troy Carter for their immense support in having the bill passed.
Act 486 of the 2021 regular legislative session will provide DOTD with the first sustainable revenue increase in over 30 years. This legislation will appropriate funds to DOTD from vehicle sales taxes annually beginning in FY 2024. The department estimates it will receive $150 million the first year and $260 million in subsequent years.
A notable project let in September 2021 was the second segment of LA 3241 in St. Tammany Parish. This $62.6 million project, which will construct a new highway between LA 435 and LA 36, is partially funded by a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan against BP settlement funds. The first segment of LA 3241, which will connect LA 40/LA 41 in Bush to LA 435, was let on July 21. A third segment, which is fully funded and will be let in 2023, will complete the new highway, connecting I-12 to Bush, LA. LA 3241 was originally part of the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED) Program, which consisted of 16 projects statewide and began in 1989 when voters approved a 4-cent increase to the gas tax in order to fund Act 16 of the 1989 legislature. The LA 3241 project is the 15th TIMED project to move forward.
Another notable event in 2021 was the department’s heroic response to Hurricane Ida. On August 29, the Category 4 hurricane smashed into Louisiana near Port Fourchon. With sustained winds of 150 mph, this catastrophic storm was tied with Hurricane Laura in 2020 and the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest on record in Louisiana. In terms of damage and intensity, it was second only to Hurricane Katrina, which hit the state 16 years to the day earlier. Before landfall, DOTD made its usual preparations for the storm. During and after, the department kept the public advised of highway closures and other critical notices. DOTD crews had all interstates and many other major corridors open within two days after Ida’s landfall. As soon as it was safe to do so, assessment teams were in the field to determine damage, and shortly afterward crews were replacing and repairing damaged signs and signals. Approximately 1,500 signals were repaired or replaced. Additionally, crews began the long and arduous process of clearing debris from state routes in all affected areas, and a debris removal website with daily updates was included on the 511 website. A call center for all debris-related questions was activated in October. Debris removal will continue into 2022, but as of January 6, 2022, crews have removed 4,009,192 cubic yards of debris along 10,568 shoulder miles, approximately 87 percent of all debris along state roadways.
Major projects let/begun in 2021 include:
- Airport Connector Road and Bridge in Lafourche Parish
- Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement
- New College Drive Exit in Baton Rouge
- LA 1 Intracoastal Waterway Bridge Replacement in West Baton Rouge Parish
- Phase II of LA 1 Corridor in Lafourche Parish
- LA 3241 Corridor in St. Tammany Parish
Major projects completed in 2021 include:
- I-10 Widening from Henderson to Atchafalaya Basin Bridge in St. Martin Parish
- I-20 Mississippi River Bridge Rehabilitation in Madison Parish
Other accomplishments/achievements in 2021 include:
- Act 486 of the 2021 regular session mentioned above, which will provide sustainable revenue each year to DOTD from vehicle sales taxes
- Projects started from funding provided by the $700 million infrastructure bill, passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2019, appropriating money from the BP oil spill settlement to infrastructure, such as the LA 1 corridor and LA 3241 projects mentioned above
- Other projects expected to move forward in 2022 due to the infrastructure bill include the Cameron ferry landing replacement and a new Ambassador Caffery/U.S. 90 interchange to tie in with the future I-49 south of Lafayette
- Federal TIFIA loan mentioned above
- Federal approval for I-10 widening project in Capital Region
- “Take 10” Litter Pickup Pledge
- Hurricanes Laura and Delta debris cleanup completion
- Hurricane Ida debris pickup started
- I-10 widening in East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes wins SASHTO Operations Excellence Award
- Inaugural Louisiana Airport of the Year and Aviation Professional of the Year awards given
- The IIJA mentioned above, which will provide approximately $200 million per year over the funding DOTD currently receives beginning this fiscal year
- DOTD disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) goal exceeded
- Continued safety improvements statewide
Routine maintenance projects statewide in 2021 include:
- 6,500 inspections
- 500 repaired
- 5 replacements
- 390,000 acres
- $16 million (contract, agreements, and in-house)
- Litter picked up
- 46,000 cubic yards
- $8.1 million (contract, agreements, and in-house)
- 110,000 acres
- $3.3 million (in-house)
- Ditch cleaning
- 410 miles
- $7.3 million (in-house)
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