Baton Rouge area business group calls for increased spending of Transportation Trust Fund on road work

Business Report

Of the nearly $700 million spent from Louisiana’s Transportation Trust Fund in the 2014 fiscal year, only 11.3% went toward road construction and repair, according to an analysis by the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, or CRISIS.

The numbers come from budget information provided by the state Department of Transportation and Development, and CRISIS is releasing them on the heels of a recent gubernatorial forum in New Orleans at which all four major candidates agreed that trust must be restored to the TTF for the state to escape its burgeoning transportation quagmire.

CRISIS was created earlier this year by a coalition that includes the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Center for Planning Excellence. The group views transportation as the major topic in this year’s governor’s race and has urged the four major gubernatorial candidates—Republicans U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite—to make transportation the top priority of their respective campaigns.

According to group’s analysis, just $77.3 million of the $685.6 million spent in 2014 from the Transportation Trust Fund went toward road construction and repair. Of the other $608 million, more than half went toward funding DOTD, while State Police, the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development Program Debt Service and non-highway capital outlay programs received the remainder of the money. However, State Police could soon be taken off the list after state lawmakers came up with increased vehicle title fees in the past legislative session as an alternative funding stream for the statewide law enforcement agency.

“While we certainly appreciate and agree with calls to remove or reduce expenditures unrelated to transportation infrastructure from the TTF, we also believe that candidates making such a promise have a responsibility to spell out precisely how they will fund those expenditures instead,” CRISIS says in a news release accompanying its report.

If the next governor can come up with funding for all of the other projects and agencies that receive funding from the TFF, leaving the entire fund free for road construction and repair projects, that would inch the state toward erasing the $12 billion transportation maintenance backlog, CRISIS says.

“Like Louisiana’s crumbling and congested roadways, the state’s funding mechanism for fixing them is itself in ailing condition,” CRISIS says. “And while we appreciate and agree with the candidates’ diagnosis of the patient, we respectfully repeat our request for greater seriousness and specifics on the cure.”

See the complete report.

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