Letter to the Editor – Natchitoches Parish: United for Infrastructure Week

Infrastructure is a critical aspect of everyday life. It supports our transportation system and stimulates economic growth for the country. At the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), we are committed to enhancing the quality of life for our residents through our transportation systems and ensuring it’s safe.

The week of May 10, 2021 marks the beginning of United for Infrastructure: A Week to Champion America’s Infrastructure, a week dedicated to bringing transportation organizations from across the country together to advocate and provide education on the nation’s infrastructure. In order to continue preserving our existing roadways, ways of life and building new roadway systems, we must have a reliable and steady revenue stream. The state relies on a 20-cent gas tax to address infrastructure needs, which has lost more than 20 percent of its value and hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

Since I became Secretary under Governor Edwards in January 2016, more than $3.6 billion has been invested toward infrastructure projects throughout the state, totaling to 1,452 projects and nearly 5,000 miles. In Central Louisiana, over $236 million totaling 149 projects and more than 553 miles has been invested in the form of maintenance and new construction. Some of those projects include the US 165-X railroad overpass replacement in Rapides Parish, major overlays on LA 478 and LA 1225 both in Natchitoches Parish, multiple on and off system bridge replacements, and base rehabilitation and overlay on LA 10 in Vernon Parish.

Now more than ever, we see how important it is as the state was hit with two hurricanes within six weeks of each other. Immediately after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, DOTD crews across Louisiana were out cutting trees and removing debris in an effort to open the roadways.

This fiscal year alone, we will invest an estimated $50 million in multimodal needs, which include critical projects such as the Mississippi River Deepening Project. While significant, this investment pales in comparison to the needs in our state. DOTD has demonstrated it can produce major projects across the state such as the critical investments in roadway safety in the form of several roundabouts in the Central Louisiana (Alexandria) region. Additionally, brand new traffic cameras and digital message boards were installed on US 71 (MacArthur Drive) to provide motorists with real-time traffic conditions to better plans their commutes, and allow our Traffic Management Center to better assist drivers with the Motorist Assistance Patrol.

Without a modernized and sustainable revenue stream, new projects will be few and far between as the funding from the 1986 gas tax will be primarily used to maintain the system that is already in place.

Louisiana has four of the top five longest bridges in the United States. And there are more than 13,000 bridges in the state and more than 16,600 miles of roadway. Five Mississippi River ports carry 25 percent of U.S. waterborne commerce, 60 percent of the nation’s grain, and 20 percent of the nation’s coal. Louisiana also moves goods over nearly 3,000 miles of rail line. We should build on these resources as opposed to being limited by disinvestment.

Infrastructure matters to our country, economy, and communities, as this is the gateway to providing access to goods, services, and traveling needs. This department works hard to ensure that each vital transportation system is maintained to enhance business development and improve commuter convenience.

Infrastructure is vital to our economy, our everyday travel, and lifestyle. We often take these benefits for granted as we go about our daily lives. But, as the needs continue to grow, and the funding continues to dwindle, it’s important to take this week to realize how important and impactful infrastructure is to every day of the year.

Sincerely,

Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D.
DOTD Secretary


12 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor – Natchitoches Parish: United for Infrastructure Week

  1. I live just off of 478. This road was perfectly fine and in my opinion did not need to be redone. The money that was used to do this project should have gone to working on Hwy 117 from Provencal to Kisatchie which is in desperate need!!!

  2. I sure hope Rt 478 gets redone, it’s like riding a roller coaster driving on that road, which isn’t very old! So many roads in Natchitoches Parish need to be completely redone, they are in horrible condition. Send some of that money to Natchitoches.

    • Yes Gee Gee, 478 is the road where they said they were considering putting the new high school. It is crumbling and roller coastering. They try to patch the sunken spots, but they are worse after the work.
      Then Hwy 117 is crumbling worse every day from Provencal to the Vernon Parish line. Cross over to Vernon Parish and WOW, what a difference: Road paradise.

      State Rep Bernard wrote a while back on this Journal that what we citizens complain about with these roads is “simply not true”. So how can we expect any help?

          • Ok the point of my question! By the way I knew it was! WHY is it like that through Vernon Parish and stops at the parish line? Been like that for ever,is there no one out there doing the parishes bidding? How does another parish getting state highways done and Natchitoches parish hasn’t in years? Something is not right!

          • Yes Mike, something is not right. Our state politicians are not there to help us get some money for our roads. Shamerhorn (misspelled) is one of the state officials for these roads, and I don’t think he has ever driven down 117 or 478. He was supposed to be our “full time representative”.

            And like I said, Bernard doesn’t think the roads are a problem. I also wonder if he ever drove from Provencal to the Vernon Parish line?
            No representation, no roads.

            But, look at Joy Johnson’s post. There is a section of 478 that just had the greatest construction of the greatest new road I’ve ever seen around here. But there was very little to nothing wrong with it beforehand. Just ripped it up, and put down a new road. The question of 2020 is “who was responsible for that decision?”

            I guess Vernon Parish has better representation in B.R., or the feds helped make 117 in Vernon Parish much better because of the presence of Fort Polk which uses that road to travel to areas of army drills in the woods off 117. Who knows?

  3. Sir, I must say that you seem to be incompetent to your position. I previously having worked in highway and road construction scrutinize all the efforts of your personnel immy my area. I will be nice and grade them with a D-. What since is there when you rebuild La 1225(unless it was federal grant money) that I would estimate to be about 4 million dollars, when it ,1225, is primarily used as a cutoff between the traffic light in Clarence to US 71 which about 2 1/2 miles south of Clarence?La 6 from LA 171 in Many to the traffic light in Clarence is, well it stinks! The North bypass in Natchitoches is pitiful. It would seem that the highway maintenance crew is only sitting around drinking coffee and gossiping. Having worked people since 1973, I can say that there is a huge need for supervision at that entity. Truth is North LA is important to you and Baton Rouge. I don’t know about your engineers here at Natchitoches, but do me a favor, use your personal vehicle, come North and drive these state highways for two days. The citizens up here are just as American, maybe more, tax payers with vehicles that are as important to them as yours is to you. Also, I was informed ten days back that the Natchitoches yard has not bought any asphaltic mix in an unusually extended period. What the problem?

  4. And every time we give the State more money you go out and hire more state workers AND the legislature removes money from your budget. A $36B budget with only $3.6B going for “infrastructure” shows how screwed up State priorities are.

    • So stop electing the same people over and over. What’s the saying of the definition of insanity? Repeatedly doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. The GOP wants small government, to the point it can’t function properly. Stop electing them. Try something different. Then have a bit of patience. Problems cannot be corrected overnight.

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