Mayor helps craft the future of I-69

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No one understands how important transportation is to growth and vitality than Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker.

The city has embarked on improving its roads to suit residents and businesses and Walker is taking that motivation with him to the next level as president of the I-69 Mid Continent Highway Coalition.

As such, he is helping craft the nation’s next great interstate, which will impact Bossier Parish.

I-69, today, connects Indianapolis with the Canadian border at Port Huron, Michigan/Sarnia, Ontario. The proposed I-69 extension will connect its current route to south Texas and into Mexico.

Approximately 1,600 miles of road will be added to the existing I-69 when it is complete.

The project has been divided into 32 sections of independent utility. The approved corridor currently connects north Louisiana near Magnolia, Ark. (section 14) and from there it runs east of Haughton, around Barksdale Air Force Base, through the Port of Caddo/Bossier terminating near Stonewall (section 15) before going from Stonewall to Tenaha, Texas (section 16).

The project is divided so that the sections can be built as money is secured.

States have been designated with securing right of way and getting environmental studies approved for their sections.

That has led to some concern over section 16, which connects Louisiana to Texas.

“From what I garner, Texas’ responsibilities for section 16 is low on their priorities. If that planning isn’t completed, no record of decision can be done and no construction can be done,” said Walker. “I’m confident Texas will get it done, it’s just a question of when they will do it.”

Walker recently attended a meeting in Texarkana, Texas where he learned Texas has elected to take the existing U.S. Highway 59 near Texarkana and upgrade it to interstate standards. That highway runs parallel to the Louisiana section and rejoins the approved I-69 route at Teneha,

“Truck traffic coming from the north towards this area would come from Memphis to Texarkana and bumps into Hwy. 59,” Walker explained. “Truck traffic would be using that route which doesn’t come through Louisiana, but once we get section 16 built, it’s shorter and truckers would migrate to the approved corridor.”

Louisiana already has a record of decision for section 14 and 15.

Section 16 was delayed seven years due to the LSU pecan research station. LSU plans to abandon that project in the near future which will allow for realigning the original corridor and ability to complete the final environmental study on section 16. We’ve done all we can do, short of building the sections.

“All we can control is two sections in northwest Louisiana,” Walker said.

The total cost of the new interstate would total $24 billion. Approximately $2.5 billion has already been spent.

The major issues for seeing the interstate built in our lifetime is money.

“With the economy being what it is and sequestration, we have to try and get national legislators to seek designated funding. I plan on working with Louisiana legislators to seek coalition members to find congressmen and senators to get money into this corridor,” Walker said.