Business, Freight News

Louisiana ranks No. 2 for infrastructure investment

[ September 13, 2018   //   ]

Louisiana ranks No. 2 among U.S. states for infrastructure investment that supports economic growth, according to Site Selection magazine. In the magazine’s first Global Groundwork Index, nations and states were evaluated for significant investment in corporate facilities combined with significant investment in roads, bridges, airport, pipelines, railroads and more. Louisiana ranked behind only Texas among all U.S. states.

Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure has seen significant enhancements and the launch of new initiatives in recent years, as state leaders have invested strategically to support economic momentum. Planned upgrades were recently announced for several of Louisiana’s interstate highways, including enhancements to the intersection of I-20 and I-220 in Bossier Parish to provide an improved entrance to Barksdale Air Force Base. The state currently has over $250 million under construction to widen strategic segments of the I-10 freight corridor. Additionally, improvements are planned for the I-10 exit at Loyola Avenue in Kenner to facilitate access to and from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, which itself is undergoing significant revitalization in a nearly $1 billion, 35-gate terminal expansion to be completed in 2019. Lafayette Regional Airport is preparing for a significant modernization, with work underway to build a 110,000 square-foot terminal to serve Louisiana’s Acadiana Region.

Improvements to railroads and ports are key components of Louisiana’s globally connected infrastructure. The Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish received $1.2 billion in structural enhancements and widening to not only improve workforce accessibility, but also to provide safer rail traffic with dual rail tracks sharing the bridge with six lanes of auto traffic. With renovations completed in 2013, the Huey P. Long Bridge is managed by the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which recently was acquired by the Port of New Orleans. The expansion and acquisition are enhancing rail competitiveness and connectivity to large markets in the South.

Additionally, Union Pacific has completed more than a half-billion dollars in rail upgrades across Louisiana, since 2012, to support industrial expansion in the state. This year, Union Pacific is completing $87 million in improvements to railroads and rail bridges across the state, including a $20 million investment at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge to allow tenants to transport goods with longer trains. Such intermodal upgrades strengthen Louisiana’s shipping industry, with five of Louisiana’s ports among the 12 highest-producing ports in the U.S., as measured by total tonnage in 2017. Ports have supported the state’s leadership in foreign direct investment coming to Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA program ranks Louisiana No. 1 for combined trade (exports and imports) on a per capita basis, with the Port of South Louisiana ranked as the No. 1 port by tonnage in the Western Hemisphere.

Louisiana’s strength in international commerce will be supported further by recently announced plans to deepen the main channel of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico to a depth of 50 feet. This $237.7 million dredging plan was developed by leaders on the state, local and federal levels, and it will be supported by a mix of state and federal investment. Upon completion, the dredging of the Mississippi River will result in an average annual benefit of $127.5 million to the nation’s economy. On a smaller scale, work such as the recent maintenance dredging of the West Calcasieu Port’s barge basin, a $1.3 million project, contributes to infrastructure efficiency on a local level.