Legislators give update on efforts toward new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:01 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge is a high priority in Southwest Louisiana, and many people insist they do not want to pay a toll.

At last word, the bridge was projected to cost $1.5 billion. So far, about $400 million is earmarked.

State Sen. Mark Abraham of Lake Charles said additional funding depends on the support of other areas and unrestricted money.

“Now keep in mind if we push too hard, legislators will not want to go along with what we want to do. So, we have to be careful on that,” said Abraham.

They are trying to get a new bridge without a toll because some, such as Rep. Les Farnum, said it would be such an unpopular move.

“The number one thing that I saw at the door campaigning for this job is, ‘Don’t you dare let them put a toll on this bridge.’ Number one thing by far. So, we bit into it as hard as we could and we’re doing everything we can as a delegation to stop that from happening,” said Farnum.

Farnum said it will be the main fight next year. If they must have a toll, Abraham suggests what they call a shadow toll.

“That means that the residents of the five-parish area will not pay a toll. The businesses will. The truckers will. But the people in the five-parish area will not pay a toll. So, that’s huge,” said Abraham.

He said a bill to allow that will come up in the next legislative session. He said before any toll could move forward it would have to come back one more time to the Senate and House Transportation Committee. The delegation hopes to get $600 million in federal dollars for the bridge.

Abraham, Farnum and Senators Jeremy Stine and Mike Reese, along with Representatives Ryan Bourriaque and Phillip Tarver, gave highlights of this year’s legislative sessions before the local Alliance for Positive Growth.

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