Shared from the 5/26/2019 American Press eEdition

President Trump’s comments historic for SW La.

President Trump, thank you. Sens. Kennedy and Cassidy and Congressmen Scalise, Abraham, Graves and Higgins, thank you. For 30 years, our presidents, senators and congressman did not make the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge a priority. You changed that and we are so very grateful for your focus and your leadership.

Thank you to our community for understanding that if we cannot replace our bridge now, when we have more than $100 billion in internationally recognized projects, we may never. Thank you to those members of our local delegation in Baton Rouge for your support and contribution to this mission.

Nearly 18 months ago, the task force (a group of volunteers, serving at their cost in both time and money) came together with a spirit of determination to upend 30 years of inaction on our bridge’s replacement. We learned early from similarly positioned friends in Mobile, Ala., that unity is priority. We learned that their project didn’t gain legs until their citizens, local elected officials, state elected officials and federal elected officials achieved unity with regard to their mission and a route location.

We’re delighted with President Trump’s support. We worked hard with our federal delegation to communicate with the president about the need for a new bridge. We now have a federal delegation and a president who recognize our need and urgency for a new bridge. What we saw is our federal delegation unifying with our president and our region to fix a problem, passed over for much too long.

Everyone agrees the Calcasieu River Bridge is critical to the continued and historic expansion of this area’s industrial development and our country’s energy independence. We agree delays we are now experiencing are miserable. We cannot afford for our bridge to be closed. But this is not merely a local problem — our state and nation cannot afford a closure.

We know there is $2 trillion infrastructure backlog in our country – $14.5 billion of it in our state. There are hundreds of communities and regions in our country who need new bridges and roads. The fact that our bridge is now at the top of that list — where it should be — is remarkable.

We are diving into the details surrounding the president’s announcement. Obviously work remains. Our local delegation has been amazing and continue pressing the issue in Baton Rouge to keep our bridge relevant. Our Southwest Louisiana delegation, together with the entire Legislature, has been supportive of bills by state Sen. Ronnie Johns and state Rep. Mark Abraham which will continue to keep bridge replacement moving forward. Those bills, creating a trust fund (SB22) and a tolling authority (HB561) to potentially aid in building our new bridge, remain very important. Please offer your support to your legislators.

We recognize no one wants a toll — including us. We hope if a toll is necessary, our community rises to the occasion as it always does and recognizes that replacing the bridge before a forced closure is critical to this area and our nation.

Before last week, months of meetings and research indicated there was no way to replace this bridge using traditional approaches without a toll. The president’s commitment to build the bridge is much appreciated, and potentially a game-changer. We are counting on our senators and congressmen and community to keep the mission on track. A great way to keep the momentum is to anticipate as yet unknown hurdles.

President Trump also understands work needs to begin now in planning and preparation, and we are focused on that. LA DOTD indicated in Westlake last month that it would require 20-24 months to complete the Environmental Impact Study (considered a giant report where government agencies such as the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard, review and consider the impact of the bridge’s plans).

Our bridge’s EIS was started in the year 2000. It remains incomplete nearly two decades later. LA DOTD Secretary Wilson and the current administration have done more than many before them, but we hope we can reach the finish line even faster. The task force learned from multiple national engineering firms that such studies are routinely completed in seven months, and in cases where federal elected officials are supportive, even faster.

Please continue to support a new bridge, and support that it be planned now and construction started very soon, at all costs. We remain committed to serving and providing information as soon as it becomes available.

I-10 Calcasieu River

Bridge Task Force

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