$325M Borrowing Plan for Rural Louisiana Roads Gets OK

Wed June 13, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Melinda Deslatte - Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A $325 million borrowing plan to repair and upgrade rural roads across Louisiana received final legislative passage May 9, offering hope to regions of the state where lawmakers say highways have returned to gravel from poor maintenance.

The proposal by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, won unanimous approval in a House vote with little discussion, sending the bill to the desk of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports it.

Every parish but Orleans Parish will be eligible for the highway repair money, which will pay for work on roads not eligible for federal matching dollars in the highway program.

The proposal lets the Department of Transportation and Development borrow dollars by selling bonds to investors for upfront cash. The debt will be paid off with interest over 20 years with a pot of money from registration, license fees and taxes on commercial trucks and trailers, money earmarked into the State Highway Improvement Fund.

The amount of interest that would be paid won’t be decided until the bonds are sold, so it’s unclear what the cost of the proposal could be.

Any bond sale also will require support from the State Bond Commission. The transportation department said it will seek to issue three bond sales: $100 million in the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year, $100 million a year later and $125 million in the third year.

Money for road improvements will be divided for projects under the state transportation department’s priority program.

DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas said the intention is to limit debt payments to $25 million annually, though that limitation isn’t included in the bill.