Bond Deal to Keep La. Bridge Work Moving

Fri May 15, 2009 - Southeast Edition

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) The State Bond Commission on April 16 approved a $300 million bond deal aimed at funding two major bridge projects in south Louisiana.

The state Department of Transportation and Development needs the cash to keep paying for widening of the Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish and construction of a new Mississippi River bridge near St. Francisville. The bond sale will keep the work going through the summer, but more bonds will need to be issued later this year, the agency said.

The Bond Commission approved the department’s plan without objection.

The arrangement includes a payment the state must make of roughly $50 million to financial institutions for a bet on interest rates — known as a “rate swap’’ — that went sour last year amid the credit crunch.

The bridge projects are part of the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development program, or TIMED, created by the Legislature in 1989 to pay for 16 large highway and bridge projects. The Huey Long Bridge project is estimated to cost $1.1 billion. The John James Audubon span, between West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee parishes, has a $403 million price tag.