$135M federal grant to build La.1 in key energy corridor a ‘huge win’ for Louisiana, leaders say

The state is getting a $135 million federal grant to build about eight miles of elevated highway on flood-prone La. Hwy. 1 between Leeville and Golden Meadow in far south Louisiana, U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise announced Monday.

The allocation, which will upgrade a key energy corridor, is the largest of its kind of about $900 million allocated nationally, according to Scalise’s office, which played the lead role in landing the aid.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state leaders are expected to be on hand when the formal announcement is made Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in Golden Meadow.

The section targeted is part of a corridor linked to Port Fourchon, which services over 90% of the nation’s offshore energy exploration and production. The port is the lone service point for nearly 20% of the nation’s domestically-produced oil and natural gas.

La. 1 is the sole access route to Port Fourchon as well as the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, which serves as the unloading and distribution point for oil supertankers entering the Gulf of Mexico.

The highway is also the hurricane evacuation route relied upon by about 35,000 residents.

It became impassable on June 8 because of flooding sparked by Tropical Storm Cristobal.

In a statement, Scalise said elevating a portion of La. 1 “has long been a top priority of mine” and that doing so will help safeguard access to the nation’s oil and gas supplies.

The grant was a top issue for the state’s congressional delegation as well as Edwards.

A 2019 law signed by Edwards reallocated settlement dollars from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, including $150 million for the same stretch of La. 1 targeted by the federal grant.

It undid a 2014 law that committed the BP dollars to the Medicaid trust fund, Louisiana’s rainy day fund and the state’s health trust fund.

Last year’s law provided the needed state commitment that paved the way for the federal grant, officials said.

“Once again a mega project that has been on the books for decades is moving forward thanks to the innovative funding measures utilized by this administration,” Edwards said in a statement.

Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, also cited the 2019 law sponsored by Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

“This grant is a huge win for Louisiana and the nation,” Wilson said.

The work will cover 8.3 miles between the Leeville Bridge and Golden Meadow.

It will be financed by an Infrastructure for Rebuilding American grant, or INFRA.

The grants target projects that support national energy security.

U. S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who also praised the announcement, earlier won approval for an amendment that prioritized roadways vital to national energy security, like La. 1.

The work is part of a long-term push to improve highway conditions between Mathews and the Port Fourchon/Grand Isle areas.

A 2017 bid by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission to land federal aid failed, in part because of a lack of state or local dollars.

After $150 million in state aid was approved last year, Scalise and others launched a full-court press for federal aid.

On Jan. 24 Scalise hosted a meeting with Edwards and others on the state’s application, met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Jan. 29 to discuss the issue and spoke with Chao to reiterate his support on Feb. 11.

The entire delegation sent a letter to Chao on Feb. 21, calling the La. 1 aid a top priority.

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