‘Absolute nightmare’: New North Shore transportation heads could alleviate traffic woes

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:12 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:51 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For drivers on the north shore, traffic is so bad that it can take nearly an hour just to go four miles. That’s the reality for many as traffic and congestion continue to be a problem. Now, state lawmakers are hoping to direct more funding to resolve the issues.

Sen. Patrick McMath (R-Covington) and Rep. Mark Wright (R-Covington) now chair the Transportation committees in their respective chambers.

“We are both acutely aware of the traffic problems and the traffic nightmare on the North Shore,” said Sen. McMath. “We deal with it every day ourselves.”

McMath said help is on the way now that he and Rep. Wright are in the position to lead the transportation committees.

Rep. Wright’s office said “this new development provides the Northshore’s infrastructure priorities with a spotlight in Baton Rouge.” Adding, this comes “at a critical time when Louisiana has funding available to build years of infrastructure dreams into reality.”

“We all know our communities have significant needs for transportation infrastructure improvements, and Patrick and I are now well positioned to ensure the North Shore gets the funding and attention our citizens deserve,” said Wright.

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McMath said by leading the committees, both he and Wright can work to drive dollars to their districts to help solve the traffic and infrastructure problems plaguing areas of Madisonville, Mandeville and Covington.

Right now, he said projects funded locally with state dollars just in the past year and a half include phase three of the I-12 widening project at $37-million, and about $29-million to replace the Bogue Falaya bridge on Hwy 190 in Covington from two lanes to four.

“We’re working really hard to see through and to fund, and not just those projects. But we got widening of Hwy 22. Madisonville to Mandeville is an absolute nightmare,” said McMath. “We have money in House Bill 2 that we will continue to fund. It’s not only a widening project, but a drainage project as well.”

He said the North Shore is in a “significant bind and a lot of that has to do with funding.”

“We are 25 years behind the eight-ball when it comes to our infrastructure meeting our growth needs,” said McMath, which he said also includes sewer and drainage needs.

According to Wright’s office, “In the previous session, the legislature made historic progress in dedicating future funds for infrastructure without raising taxes. Even more, Louisiana still has over $1 billion in unspent federal dollars, which the legislature must appropriate in the upcoming regular session.”

And, “The state’s backlog of infrastructure projects ballooned to $14 billion over the last decade. The new chairmen and their committees are working together to review infrastructure projects across the state and rank them in priority.”

“Here on the North Shore it’s all capacity projects. It’s all traffic and congestion issues,” said McMath. “In Calcasieu Parish, they need a new bridge in Lake Charles. In Baton Rouge, they need a new bridge and a new bypass. Shreveport, Acadiana -- there are problems throughout [the state].”

As for a timeline when traffic should ease up, McMath asks citizens to bear with them.

“A lot of the traffic congestion I think people would say it’s worse than it has ever been,” he said. “But also that coincides with the projects we have going on right now. You see construction equipment and cranes along the interstate.”

While work is getting done on I-12, over the next few years these lawmakers believe they can ensure the Northshore gets more attention.

“The positions of power matter because we can drive the dollars to our districts and that is what’s going to solve this problem,” said McMath. “I feel your pain. I get it. I’m sitting in the same traffic you are. I avoid the roads at the same time most people do and I’m sick of it... It has a direct impact on quality of life.”

McMath and Wright served together on the Covington City Council before being elected to state office.

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