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Opinion: Transportation and cost planning

A visit with District 3 Bossier Parish Police Juror Wanda Bennett, Jury Administrator Bill Altimus and Engineers Butch Ford and Bruce Easterly to discuss parish transportation projects was an opportunity to review the Jury’s long-term planning to improve and expand the parish’s roadways and bridges.

It’s a two-part exercise, however.  Planning involves an extensive project list and sources of funding to pay for specific projects.

So before the project list, here’s a review of the Police Jury’s transportation-related revenues.  Bossier Parish collects a 1.5 percent sales tax dedicated to the highway department, which generates an average $7 million per year. The sales tax is collected outside of parish municipalities.  The Parish also collects a 2.01 mill property tax that generates about $1.8 million per year.  Other funds include roughly $825,000 a year from the Louisiana fuel tax, and severances taxes collected by the Parish.

The Parish’s highway department operating, equipment, and asphalt budgets currently run about $7.3 million annually. 

Clearly, that doesn’t leave much for projects like the Swan Lake Road extension, projected to cost roughly $23-27 million.

But as evidenced by the recent Kingston Road widening project, the Jury looks for other funding sources.  Ford explained that costs were shared by the Bossier Parish School Board, the Kingston Crossing Apartments developer, the Jury and Bossier City – for the near $2 million project.  Last year the Jury completed improvements to Wimple Road from Airline Drive to Cross Creek, a $1.1 million project, and has scheduled the next step of the project for this year – to Lakewood Subdivision – a $1.8 million project.

“We try to tap into every source that’s available to help,” Ford said.

Altimus provided another example of tapping other sources, using the Swan Lake Road Extension as an example.  Altimus said that the Parish had received roughly $7 million from the federal government, which paid for all the environmental work on this project and the Winfield and Wafer Road projects, but federal funding has generally dried up.  The Parish set aside funds for what would have been the 20 percent match along with a state capital outlay allocation of $600,000.  Another funding source is likely the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), which receives state and federal funds for local projects. 

The Swan Lake Road extension project will become a reality, as will the Parish’s other planned transportation improvements – but Altimus cautions that those major projects will take the Jury’s continued diligence in seeking out additional funding.

It’s a similar situation for financing bridge maintenance and replacements. 

Ford explained that the Parish participates in the Off System Bridge Program – in which a mix of federal and state funding assists parishes to replace or repair parish bridges.  Participation requires meeting certain criteria and operates on a two-year cycle.  Although Bossier Parish didn’t receive funds in the current cycle, previous awards have contributed to the replacement and repairs to such as Parks Road Bridge, Dogwood Trail, and Caplis-Sligo Bridge.

That funding is also providing $1.2 million for replacement of the Koran-Doyline Bridge.  But Ford has a list of bridges that need major repair or replacement, including the Linton-Black Bayou Bridge and Sligo-Foxskin Bridge, to name only a few.

Ford said that the Police Jury cannot rely on the Off System Bridge Program to meet all the Parish’s funding needs in this area – and the Jury will need to have a program of its own.

This informative visit made clear a couple of notable points.  First, the Bossier Parish Police Jury is committed to planning and projects that will both encourage and accommodate the parish’s consistent growth.  With that growth, there’s the expectation that a moderate increase in revenue to the parish will occur.  At the same time, however, costs of transportation projects will increase.

So, if Bossier Parish residents are interested in seeing consistent transportation improvements, the future calls for a continuing discussion with the Bossier Parish Police Jury to determine and support sources to fund those desired improvements.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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