Posted: Jun 12, 2012 10:49 AM by AP
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - A report is expected by year's end on whether tolls will be used to help pay for the completion of Interstate 49 south from Lafayette to New Orleans.
The Advocate reports the idea of tolls for the road has been bounced around for several years as one option for a project that would cost an estimated $5 billion to complete.
The state Department of Transportation and Development study was called for by a resolution the Legislature passed this session.
"It's another funding tool for consideration and public discussion," DOTD Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda said.
The DOTD study comes as the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission is researching the toll option. The Expressway Commission has taken the local lead in the search for I-49 funding.
The group has not looked at using tolls for the entire I-49 south project but instead has studied two shorter options: an 18-mile stretch from Lafayette going south and a 37-mile stretch from Lafayette through Iberia Parish.
The cost for those segments would range from $1 billion to $1.4 billion.
In a preliminary report last year, consultants hired by the Expressway Commission said tolls of 16 cents per mile for passenger vehicles could cover about half the cost for the 18-mile or 37-mile options, bringing the projects into the realm of feasibility.
Kalivoda said DOTD plans to meet with the Expressway Commission about the group's research, and will revisit an I-49 toll study that DOTD did in 2001 and updated about six years ago.
"We will look at it with fresh eyes," Kalivoda said.
He said the past DOTD studies found tolls could cover about 30 percent of the cost for the entire route from Lafayette to New Orleans or about 50 percent for a shorter toll project from Lafayette to the Houma area.
DOTD is also working to trim the cost of completing I-49 south to a more manageable price, Kalivoda said.