20 Dec 2019
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D., announced the execution of a Comprehensive Agreement with Plenary Infrastructure Belle Chasse, LLC an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Plenary Group Concessions USA Ltd. to build the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement Project in Plaquemines Parish.
The new bridge will be located between the existing vertical lift bridge and tunnel and will include four lanes with a separated, protected sidewalk in the southbound direction. This proposal was approved on Wednesday by the House and Senate Transportation Committee, making this the first transportation infrastructure Public-Private Partnership (P3) project in the state. The procurement process began in early 2018.
“At the beginning of my administration, I committed to being innovative in delivering transportation infrastructure and using every tool at our disposal to ensure Louisiana was leading on infrastructure”, said Gov. Edwards. “This is a major accomplishment in that we are utilizing tools never before used in Louisiana, specifically a Public-Private Partnership, coupled with GARVEE Bonds and an INFRA grant awarded to us by the Trump Administration. As a result of Dr. Wilson’s leadership, DOTD’s hard work, and so many other stakeholders, we have made history, and have set the stage for many more transportation accomplishments over the next 4 years.”
“After over 24 months of procurement processes, negotiations and public input on this alternative delivery method, Louisiana has crossed the finish line and has opened the door to new opportunities to deliver infrastructure in Louisiana,” said Secretary Wilson. “Innovation is never easy, but in the absence of sustainable revenue to meet Louisiana’s transportation needs, Public-Private Partnerships and tolling options are the only other means of delivering transportation infrastructure the public is demanding.”
Secretary Wilson went on to say, “The public engagement process has yielded forward progress for infrastructure, and it would not have been possible without the work of the DOTD staff, and all the various stakeholders that were engaged over the last two years.”
Plenary Infrastructure, an investment firm that specializes in P3s, will manage and oversee construction, maintenance and operations of the new bridge and will recoup its investment through tolls paid by motorists. Funding for this project will be combined with funds from the $45 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant that DOTD received in June 2018, $26.2 million in federal/state funds allocated to DOTD, $12 million in federal funds allocated by the Regional Planning Commission, and up to ten percent of the project cost in GARVEE Bond proceeds, as this is a toll project.
“With the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement project, the State of Louisiana has launched a forward-looking program to partner with the private sector in addressing the State’s growing infrastructure needs,” said Dale Bonner, Executive Chairman of Plenary Concessions. “As the State’s first long-term partner, we look forward to working with all stakeholders in making the project a great success for local communities and regional commuters who rely on this critical asset.”
The tunnel opened in 1956, and the current bridge was built in 1968. The average daily traffic is approximately 35,000 and this route serves as the primary access point to the residents, businesses, and industries of Plaquemines Parish. The new structure will benefit the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station while providing more efficient commute times in daily activities and hurricane evacuations for motorists.
Construction is anticipated to begin summer 2021, with an estimated completion of spring 2024, weather dependent.
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