Louisiana Seeking $150M Grant for LA 1

Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers passed Act 443 last summer which dedicated $150 million in oil spill recovery money to improvements to La. Highway 1 in Lafourche Parish heading to Port Fourchon.

Louisiana leaders are applying to an infrastructure grant program through the federal government to match that amount with another $150 million.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in early February to talk about the state’s request.

Chao’s department is overseeing a $900 million infrastructure grant program that Louisiana has targeted to provide the $150 million in federal financing, to help elevate an 8.3 mile stretch of Highway 1 from Golden Meadow to Leeville.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Scalise said he stressed not only the highway’s use as a key hurricane evacuation route, but also its importance to the national energy infrastructure at Port Fourchon.

“It will be an aggressive competition, but I think we have an incredibly strong story,” he said.

The sustainability of La. Highway 1 absolutely is a national issue. Since Southeastern Louisiana is at or below sea level, when storm surge levels approach, the incoming waters easily overtake the road and force its closure.

Port Fourchon is a global energy hub, so its ebbs and flows directly impact the energy landscape around the globe.

“These funds will allow for the completion of the elevated LA 1 highway and enhance resiliency for the economic engine that is Port Fourchon, ensuring access and securing our nation’s energy security,” said Chett Chiasson, Executive Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

LSU professor and well-known economist Dr. Loren Scott conducted a study in 2014 to measure how much the highway means to the country. In it, he estimated that the nation loses $22 million in sales every hour it’s shut down. In some storm events, the road closes for 5-6 days — and that’s with just grazing blows.

If we ever were to take a direct hit, the road could be closed for three weeks — if not more — a loss of billions of dollars in sales and earnings.

Applications for the federal grant dollars are due by Feb. 25, Scalise said, with awards announced by the end of summer.