A new I-10 Bridge in SWLA may be closer to becoming a reality. KPLC reports construction plans to build a new and improved bridge over the Calcasieu River could possibly begin sometime in 2024. On details surrounding shovels in the dirt,  U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R - Lafayette) said of the probability that the project would begin next year, “Any reasonable man would concur that, just the nature of the conversation will argue now, not whether or not we’re going to build a bridge, but exactly how it’s going to be funded and whether or not there’s going to be tolls.”

Rep. Higgins voted against President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) which will provide funding to build the new I-10 Bridge. Higgins said, the reason “I opposed the infrastructure bill. Is it was $2 trillion and only about 6 percent of it was actual concrete and steel infrastructure. The rest of it was other stuff.”

However, Gov. Edwards celebrated the signing of the BIL, which passed on November 15, 2021. Over the next five years, Bayou State will receive approximately $5.9 billion in federal funding for highways and bridges. In addition, $4 billion was already allocated to fund more than 120 projects across Louisiana. See the BIL funding highlights already announced for Louisiana below.

Roads and Bridges - $2.4 billion
Internet – Total TBA, at least $100 million
Water - $101 million
Public Transit & Clean Buses - $142 million
Electric Vehicle Charging - $27 million
Clean Energy & Power - $370 million
Airports & Ports - $588 million
Resilience - $367 million
Legacy Pollution Cleanup - $52 million

Meanwhile, Keith DuRousseau, Chairman of the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge Task Force, cautiously agreed that a timeline for construction of the new bridge is closer than it's ever been. DuRoussaeau, said there is no guarantee but it is possible that a 2024 start date can happen. He added, "We are hopeful that that date becomes a reality. Again, I would believe that that would be in the third or fourth quarter that we would see, you know, actually boots on the ground, maybe a little bit of an aggressive schedule, but hopefully it becomes reality.”

According to the Bridge Task Force Chairman, the bondable amount plus capital outlay is "over $1 billion is the biggest steps in history for this project.” On that same note, if the bridge is built solely by the government, the could be delayed due to a number of factors.

DuRousseau explained. “DOTD would have to restructure everything that has been solicited now, because it’s been solicited as a P3, where there’s a concessionaire, basically a banker, and an engineering firm,” He continued. “And they would have to restructure the entire request for proposals, solicit for designers, so if we went another route, I would say it would take multiple years to get back to where we’re at currently.”

DuRousseau said, “That would require a toll, but not necessarily require money out of the pockets of the five-parish area,” It just depends says DuRousseau. “If the numbers came in and they were acceptable, we could use the $40 million that we received from the tax revenue to offset the local toll.”

The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) public information officer John Guidroz said the I-210 Bridge lighting project to replace damage caused by the 2020 storms is expected to begin this summer. It was supposed to be completed in June 2022 but DOTD redesigned the lighting system to be more robust and withstand higher winds.

The upgraded design increased the cost of materials pushing the project's start date back says Guidroz.

LOOK: The most expensive weather and climate disasters in recent decades

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