It’s the $5 billion question. Given today’s economic climate, and the state’s revenue shortfalls, how and when is the government ever going to be able to tackle completing the I-49 connector from New Orleans to Lafayette, a project that’s already been in the works since the 1960s. In its Sunday edition, The Times Picayune takes a look at the enormous funding challenges facing I-49 South. State Transportation Secretary William Anker notes that rising construction costs could soon push the $5.1 billion price tag up another $1.5 billion and also points out that I-49 South must compete for funding with his department’s $14 billion backlog of other road projects. Proponents for the North-South connector, which runs along U.S. Hwy. 90, hope the federal government makes a big investment in the project in its next highway bill. The article also quotes Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, the new chairman of an I-49 task force set up by the governor, expressing some frustration with the slow progress.
“Everybody campaigns on I-49 . . . but we need billions,” Durel said. “People have been spending the last 25 years of their own time and money working on this. People who get stranded (in traffic) on U.S. 90 don’t consider this (I-49 South) a pipe dream. We need to move on this. . . .
“We have to keep the battle going. . . . Frankly, I don’t know if it will ever get done, but what we (task force members) have to do is ratchet it up to learn how we are going to do this and how it will be paid for. . . . But until somebody with credibility says it is a waste of time, we should do it.”