The funding to build the new Interstate 20/I-220 interchange and road into the new gate at Barksdale Air Force Base faces further review before the project gets the green light to proceed.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has secured $600 million in Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) Bonds to work on several projects across the state, including the I-20/220 interchange in Bossier City.
Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus said the Joint Budget Committee still has to approve it before it goes to the state bond commission. The Joint Budget Committee will meet this week to discuss the funding proposal.
“While Barksdale is very important to northwest Louisiana and our state in general, it’s our job as citizens and leaders to contact that committee and encourage them to vote for and approve this project,” State Sen. Ryan Gatti said.
Altimus said the funding already passed the Joint Transportation Committee unanimously.
“They liked the priority of the projects,” Altimus said. “But you had a lot of different opinions among them. Let’s face it… every parish has needs, and everybody’s out there asking for something.”
Altimus said this project differed from projects in parishes that do not have interstates. The proposed funding for this project would come from federal money given to the state to work on interstates.
“You can’t take this money to fix a farm to market road in Bienveille Parish,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that all of these representatives that have a vote on these committees isn’t thinking ‘Where’s mine? What about this road in my parish?’”
Lawmakers at the Joint Transportation Committee hearing raised concerns about how funding projects with GARVEE bonds would impact the state’s bond rating, Altimus said. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said during an informational meeting recently that using GARVEE bonds will not hurt the bond rating because it’s a mix of federal and local money that will not impact the state budget to pay off the debt in 12 years.
Altimus said the Joint Transportation Committee approved a design-build proposal for the interchange project. The process allows the contractors to design and build simultaneously, and ultimately will save both time and money on the project.
And the Metropolitan Planning Organization met Friday and acted in support of the project.
“Technically we did a resolution to amend the Long Range Transportation Plan to move the project from the unfunded Visionary MEGA Projects Section to the Current Program, which is years 2016 – 2020,” Altimus said. “In March we will introduce a new TIP or Transportation Improvement Program which will include the funding for the project. We have to amend the plan before the TIP.”
Gatti said that he anticipates no roadblocks for this project because of the support it has received from local leaders all the way to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“Every congressional and state leader from our area is 100 percent behind Barksdale and this project,” Gatti said. “The police jury passed a resolution thanking the Governor and Secretary Wilson for keeping their promise to us about Barksdale. Because of the importance of Barksdale to our state’s economy, I expect no delay from Joint Budget.”
By Scott Anderson