CRISIS announced today its endorsement of proposed Constitutional Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, and urged Baton Rouge area voters to vote “yes” on the amendments on election day.
As CRISIS has previously noted in its 2015 election platform, among mid-sized cities, Baton Rouge ranks 3rd worst in the country for traffic congestion, and 11th worst for road conditions. More important than the rankings are the costs, in both time and money, which these conditions exact on the region’s citizens: more than 45 hours, or a full work week, stuck in traffic per year at a cost of more than $1,200 for the average commuter, plus more than $700 per year from vehicle maintenance and repairs.
Louisiana has a backlog of road and bridge maintenance needs surpassing $12 billion. Although the Baton Rouge region includes roughly 18 percent of the total state population, its share of the overall backlog, at $3.3 billion, represents more than a quarter of the total statewide need, and almost half of the state bridge backlog. In calling for the development of a comprehensive mobility plan to address these regional challenges, CRISIS also acknowledged that funding its components will require multiple strategies.
“From their frustrations with our congested and crumbling roadways, Baton Rouge area citizens have already succeeded in making the region’s traffic and infrastructure needs a statewide issue in upcoming elections, demanding specific solutions from candidates. But this is a chance for area voters to be part of the solution themselves,” said Cordell Haymon, Senior Vice President of SGS Petroleum Service Corporation, and CRISIS leadership member. “These amendments will help provide two important tools, without raising taxes, within a larger toolbox of funding solutions necessary to start making progress on important projects for the region.”
Constitutional Amendment No.1 would devote a portion of oil and gas revenues already collected by the state toward transportation construction and maintenance projects, while safeguarding the state’s Budget Stabilization or “Rainy Day” Fund and improving its usability during times of state budget deficits. Amendment No. 2 would authorize investment in a state infrastructure bank, recently created by the legislature, to be used solely for transportation projects.
At a featured speaking event in Baton Rouge in September, national transportation expert Robert Puentes, Director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, lauded the effectiveness of transportation infrastructure banks in other states, and based on research, has written that state infrastructure banks “can be valuable tools for delivering infrastructure projects and can generate more investment per dollar than traditional federal and state grant programs.”
Additional background: The Public Affairs Research Council, citing the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), estimates that the state would need to invest an additional $650 million per year to begin to make meaningful progress addressing these statewide needs over the next thirty years. But even that amount would devote little toward investing in major, new capacity projects.