Bossier City councilman criticizes state senator over Jimmie Davis Bridge

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By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

Bossier City Councilman Scott Irwin criticized State Senator Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) over the handling of funds regarding Jimmie Davis Bridge.

Local media reports surfaced late last month that $100 million in funding earmarked for Jimmie Davis Bridge in House Bill 578 of this year’s legislative session was moved to fund the inner-city connector of I-49 at the expense of the long-awaited bridge. Peacock maintains that move is part of an effort to leverage federal funds that will see both projects completed.

Irwin said he is “furious” about this “ill-conceived decision.”

“I’m not trying to be mean-spirited towards Senator Peacock, and I regret that I have to speak about his decision regarding the Jimmie Davis Bridge in such unpleasant terms,” said Irwin at Tuesday’s regular Bossier City Council meeting. “Senator Peacock has done many good things for our region, but what Senator Peacock has done concerning the bridge is simply not right and is tragic to residents residing on both sides of the Jimmie Davis bridge.” 

Irwin said he was speaking only for himself regarding the No. 1 issue in south Bossier — the Jimmie Davis Bridge.

“South Bossier residents have worked for over a decade to have a new Jimmie Davis Bridge built. They have waited and waited. They endured money woes, endangered bird delays, and more money woes,” said Irwin. 

Irwin said has met with previous Governor Bobby Jindal and current Governor John Bel Edwards, recently presenting a petition for a new Jimmie Davis Bridge to Gov. Edwards.

“The good news is a short time later, House Bill 578 came out with $100 million, fully funding a new Jimmie Davis Bridge. The fight was over, we had the funding for a new bridge. It didn’t require any money for Bossier City, Shreveport, Bossier Parish, or Caddo Parish. It was 100 percent funded by the State of Louisiana,” said Irwin.

“Now for the bad news. Senator Peacock, through amendment 2862 moved the funds from the Jimmie Davis Bridge to the I-49 connector. He may tell you otherwise, but I have the documents right here. All of the money, $100 million, was taken from the Jimmie Davis Bridge and given to the I-49 connector,” he said.

Irwin said he is not opposed to I-49 connector, but if it is not built, people will not “fall into a muddy, swollen Red River.” He added that if the Jimmie Davis Bridge is not replaced, “I fear for the safety of the people using that bridge.”

“They tell me the bridge is safe at this moment, but it is obvious it is rapidly deteriorating,” Irwin added.

The Press-Tribune interviewed Peacock last month regarding funding for the bridge, where Peacock said funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge was not sacrificed for I-49. 

Peacock said the $100 million installed for the Jimmie Davis Bridge that was amended to go toward the inner-city connector is part of an effort to leverage federal funds that will see both projects completed.

“Basically by doing this, we’re trying to leverage the $100 million to work with our federal partners and then also use the money that has been in Capital Outlay, House Bill 2,  to leverage and complete a new Jimmie Davis bridge which is desperately needed,” Peacock explained.

“I see this as we can do more than one project at a time for our community. It’s not putting one project against the other, it’s doing the most we can with the resources we have,” he added. “We need to leverage our dollars and put as much of the resources to work versus just using state dollars locally. We need to use state dollars and have that matched with federal dollars.”

House Bill 2, the Capital Outlay budget, contains $23,991,700, which has been capped for the planning, design, and construction of a new Jimmie Davis Bridge. The $23,991,700 would act as 20 percent from the state to leverage $95,966,800 as the remaining 80 percent from the federal government. Thus, providing $119,958,500 as the total funds for a new bridge.

House Bill 578, which originally contained funding for only two projects in the state, had another eight projects added throughout Louisiana added when it came through the Senate Finance Committee. That saw $100 million dollars, allocated from settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, added for the Jimmie Davis Bridge.

Peacock said he and his Northwest Louisiana Delegation colleagues realized that was money that could be used with federal dollars to do more projects. That is when they agreed to put that $100 million toward the inner-city connector of I-49 and use it for the state portion for the 3.8 miles connecting I-20 and I-220. 

“So when you use that $100 million that we amended in the bill, saying put it toward the I-49, then you have that $100 million from the state, which would be 20 percent and then you would be able to get 80 percent with the federal match which would be $400 million, so you would have $500 million going toward the inner-city connector,” Peacock added.