Industry steps up to move LA-1 project forward
Thanks to a $6.6-million industry match, construction should begin, by early 2016, on a critical cog in the long-running effort to complete the elevated replacement for the antiquated—and often-impassable—Louisiana Highway 1 (LA-1) corridor.
The latest, and northernmost, segment in Phase 2 of the LA-1 project involves the construction of a span over the South Lafourche Levee in Golden Meadow. That particular segment is imperative to provide the utility access necessary to complete the final two sections of the highway, said Henri Boulet, executive director of the 58-member LA-1 Coalition. For nearly 18 years, the private and public coalition has embarked on a concerted effort to acquire financing for, and complete, the segmented construction of an elevated highway to replace its often-closed predecessor, and provide a direct, storm-proof artery to Port Fourchon.
While only 3,400 ft long, the span nonetheless will take two years to build, and cost $46 million, Boulet said, pointing to daunting technical challenges—not the least of which is enormously weak soil conditions requiring support reinforcement. “It’s a short segment, but absolutely critical, because we have to have construction access to build the other two legs. We have to get over the levee to deliver the pilings to cranes for building the rest of the highway,” he said. “The state has committed to putting it out for bid in October, and we should see cranes on location by January.”
Boulet said the state committed $40 million for the utility overpass, predicated on the industry’s 15% match. “Without the industry coming up with $6.6 million as a match, the governor would not have committed to this. This is keeping the project moving forward,” he said. “Getting this commitment from the governor was not easy, because even though LA-1 is critical to our oil and gas economy, we’re a community that’s not a large population base. It’s difficult to get funding for a new highway, when the state has a $12-billion backlog of roads that need repairs.”
Meanwhile, even though a contract has yet to be awarded for this project, Boulet said the coalition is already in the process of lining up funding for the next section in the segmented construction schedule, comprising a 1-mile overpass over the Bollinger Canal at Leeville to the south. The elevated section, allowing the entry of workover rigs to reach mature inland wells, is being designed to provide the tie-in to the Phase I Leeville Bridge, and provide the link that will eventually lead to a direct 19-mile route to Port Fourchon.
That segment is expected to cost $60 million, of which $50 million is projected to come from the state’s ultra-competitive capital outlay program, with the industry once more being targeted for a requisite $10-million match. Boulet conceded, however, that with the decline in oil prices, the coalition likely will have to seek smaller shares from a bigger pool. “For the access segment in Golden Meadow, we received $2-million commitments from two companies when oil was $100/bbl, but money is much tighter now, so we may have to ask for far less from more companies,” he said. “It will be tougher, but that doesn’t mean the companies won’t give something.”
The final segment of the epic LA-1 project is the 6-mi link between Leeville and Golden Meadow, which carries a price tag of $235 million. Boulet said the coalition hopes to acquire up to $210 million, between the federal OCS revenue sharing program and the state’s share of civil fines from the Macondo oil spill litigation. Hopefully, he said, Louisiana’s allotment from OCS production revenue will bond out by 2019, and be ready for distribution. However, any shares from the oil spill Restore Act program must await a final court decision, and potential appeals.
Boulet said the coalition, likewise, will seek a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program. The final, 6-mi leg qualifies under the TIGER program, as it will provide the immediate utility that is required of TIGER-funded projects.Related Articles
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