Louisiana politicians with a blank checkbook

Originally published in The Inquisitor

Yes, the only thing worse than a Louisiana politician with a big blank check is the Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation with a checkbook full of blanks. The Louisiana Department of Transportation (LaDOT) holds a series of public meetings, called the “Road Show”, around the state every year ahead of the legislative season. The most recent meeting came this month even though it is usually held in late winter ahead of the spring legislative season. This is an opportunity for the committee members and the public to hear from LaDOT and it gives the public a chance to tell the truth to their government on Transportation issues.

The politicians, chosen by leaders of the House and Senate, opened the meeting with introductions and comments. There was bickering within minutes. Should we use this new federal money from Washington to fix all the bad Infrastructure, or keep building new Infrastructure? The “build it bunch” was advocating for lots of shiny new projects, and only one lone representative spoke up for rehabilitation and repair of our crumbling roads, bridges, and other Infrastructure.

A state senator from Bossier seemed unaware that the Jimmie Davis Bridge isn’t a settled issue. The last meeting of Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments shared information that the bridge may have to be torn down because it probably is too steep to work as a bike/pedestrian bridge (with federal dollars) after the new toll bridge is completed closer to the Port. It was brought up by a representative that the Port is Infrastructure that is subsidized with our local property taxes, but it has never been self-sustaining, pointing out that it really is only a part time port. Mostly it functions as an Industrial Park with a water feature called the Red River.

There were plenty of calls for more niceties such as new traffic barrels with a nicer design, a crew to reset the cable barriers after crashes on highway medians leaves them sagging. “It looks bad, like the trash along the highway”, said one senator. But Louisiana isn’t receiving the $28 billion that we would need to fix all the bad (La3132) and build all the new Unfunded Megaprojects. Not even half of what we would need. Despite legislative action last year to divert Louisiana sales tax on automobile parts away from, where else, Education, toward our $28 billion dollar shortfall, we are still way behind in repairs. Think of a homeowner who has blue tarps on the roof to keep the rain out, but he is trying to qualify for a loan to put in a swimming pool in the backyard so that the neighbors will come over. That is what this is like. Big problems with easy money from the feds to address much of the repair work, but no. They want to build more instead. Let me know, should we fix all the bad or get busy adding new Infrastructure? Perkwrites@gmail.com