Industry leaders and lawmakers in Louisiana are hoping for an unprecedented infusion of federal cash to jumpstart the state’s economy by tackling a backlog of infrastructure work, Engineering News-Record reports.
President Donald Trump has called for another $2 trillion relief package—this time to fund infrastructure such as roads and bridges. That prospect, the publication reports, has sparked conversations among industry leaders eager for the state to address its unmet infrastructure needs, which long predate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When this thing finally breaks, what better way is there to get the economy back on its feet than to spend money on public works projects and infrastructure?” says Ken Naquin, CEO the Louisiana Associated General Contractors.
One strategy Louisiana lawmakers are trying is to speed up already funded infrastructure projects, including $1.2 billion in federal grant money the state received in 2018 for flood mitigation. In February, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development approved Louisiana’s plans for the grant money. The state had been expecting the funding to become available this spring.
And earlier this week, state Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, urged Louisiana’s congressional delegation to push for an emergency exclusion from permitting requirements from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fast-track coastal restoration projects, including the $800 million Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion project in Plaquemines Parish. The project was paid for by settlement money from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.
Robert S. Boh, president and CEO of Boh Bros. Construction in New Orleans, tells Engineering News-Record he believes federal infrastructure funding would not only help revive the state economy after the coronavirus outbreak, but it could also be the answer to the the state’s longstanding infrastructure needs. Louisiana has a $14 billion backlog of road and bridge projects.