Lawmakers approve public-private partnership for Belle Chasse project

Louisiana legislators on Wednesday approved the state’s first public-private infrastructure partnership for a $165 million transportation bridge and tunnel replacement in Belle Chasse.

Residents and local officials had opposed the plan, objecting to the tolls that it will require and arguing the partnership will multiply the project’s cost. But supporters didn’t want to lose the $45 million federal grant that came with the project or jeopardize the possibility of other partnerships across the state.

“The grant was contingent upon this being a public-private partnership that was generating tolls,” Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said in a recent interview. “This is consistent with what President [Donald] Trump is advocating.”

Wilson says tolls will be an important aspect of funding transportation improvements, especially since the state’s gas tax has not been raised in 30 years.