CRISIS sends gubernatorial candidates open letter, continuing to press candidates on transportation specifics

Baton Rouge, La. — CRISIS, the Baton Rouge area regional business-led coalition for transportation improvements, today sent the following open letter to the two gubernatorial campaigns of the candidates in the run-off, requesting responses in writing on questions regarding specific plans to address the Capital Region’s infrastructure needs:

OPEN LETTER TO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES

To: Rep. John Bel Edwards; U.S. Sen. David Vitter

From: Scott Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, CRISIS

Date: November 6, 2015

Subject: Request for specific plans for how you, as Governor, will address the Baton Rouge area’s traffic crisis                                                                                                                                                             

On behalf of Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS), let me begin by congratulating you on achieving the run-off election to become Louisiana’s next Governor.  Both the challenges and opportunities facing Louisiana over the next four years are significant, requiring strong and smart leadership at the state level, and we thank you for your willingness to serve.

For the Baton Rouge area, that holds true perhaps most pressingly on the issue of transportation infrastructure.  While the needs across the state are certainly sizable, the situation in the Capital Region has grown particularly, even uniquely, dire among the state’s metropolitan areas.  As we have previously noted in our Election Platform, among mid-sized cities, the Capital Region ranks 3rd worst in the entire country for traffic congestion, and 11th worst for road conditions.  And although the Baton Rouge region accounts for roughly 18 percent of the state’s total population, its share of the transportation maintenance backlog, at $3.3 billion, represents more than a quarter of the total statewide need, and almost half of the state’s bridge backlog.

In a sense, the Baton Rouge area is at a crossroads.  On the one hand, the region is experiencing historic levels of economic momentum, and has consistently led the state in job growth.  On the other hand, area businesses continue to cite transportation as an increasing concern, pointing to traffic congestion as a top obstacle for future growth.  For many, when it comes to the ability to transport people and products across the region, the situation is becoming untenable.  In short, we are reaching a tipping point, with urgent need for action.  Our transportation system should be a way to provide people easy access to their jobs, not a barrier that puts greater job opportunities at risk.

Given the seriousness of what’s at stake, throughout the gubernatorial race to date we have been pleased by the amount of attention candidates have given to the transportation issue in general, but disappointed by the lack of specificity in offering clear and comprehensive solutions.  For example, while candidates have pledged to “restore trust in the transportation trust fund,” an analysis of the issue also points to the complexities of that fund and questions what steps you, as Governor, will take to fulfill that pledge.

Therefore, for the sake of Baton Rouge area residents having as much detail as possible to cast an informed ballot, we are seeking your response to the following questions, in writing, with the request that you respond no later than Friday, November 13th.

1.    Do you support the 5 priorities outlined in the CRISIS election platform, and will you commit to working to advance them as Governor?  Please elaborate.

2.    Given the complexities raised through closely analyzing the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, what specific steps will you pursue so that your pledge to “restore trust in the trust fund” is not just a soundbite but a clear and detailed solution?

3.    Maximizing Transportation Trust Fund dollars in itself may be insufficient to making serious headway tackling the state’s $12 billion infrastructure backlog.  What is your targeted amount that you would seek to dedicate toward that effort on an annual basis, and what steps will you take during your first year in office to achieve it?

4.    Finally, and most importantly, knowing that even substantial additional resources devoted to addressing the backlog still provide nothing for major new capacity “megaprojects,” what steps will you take during your first year in office to provide desperately needed funding both to expedite improvements along the I-10 corridor and to establish another major thoroughfare through the region and across the Mississippi River?

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these matters and for your responses.  The members of CRISIS stand ready and willing to work with you and the Legislature to advance solutions that help make possible the future prosperity of the Baton Rouge area.

Posted on November 6, 2015 .