U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao joined Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in formally announcing a $45 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD), Transport Topics reports. The grant will be used for the Route 23 Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement project, which serves as the primary access point to Plaquemines Parish, carrying more than 33,000 vehicles per day.
“The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is honored to receive this $45 million INFRA grant from the Trump administration,” said LADOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson in a statement, according to the news agency. “This project is one that Plaquemines Parish has needed for decades, as the tunnel was built in the 1950s and the draw bridge in the 1960s. Both have surpassed their life cycle.”
The current tunnel and the steel vertical-lift-span bridge will be replaced with a single, mid-level fixed-span bridge with four lanes for motorists and one lane for pedestrians and bicyclists. The new bridge is expected to give the area an economic boost by eliminating the delays caused by opening the current bridge.
“This important project will enhance safety, decrease travel times, and improve the quality of life for the people in this area,” Chao said during an event at the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel announcing the grant.
The replacement project is also supported by $26.2 million in federal funds allocated to LADOTD and $12 million in federal funds allocated to the Regional Planning Commission. The remaining funds will come from a public-private partnership, the first such project in the history of the LADOTD.
“I thank Secretary Chao for coming to New Orleans and making these projects possible,” Cassidy said, according to the news agency. “We discussed with local leaders the enhancements we can make at our ports, and the grant for the Belle Chasse Tunnel and Replacement Project that will improve access to Plaquemines Parish, Belle Chasse air station, and businesses along Highway 23.”
The Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement project is one of 26 projects nationwide that received INFRA grants. Other large projects to receive INFRA funding include a $160 million grant to expand the Interstate 94 North-South Freeway near Milwaukee, a $132 million grant to improve rail connections in the Chicago area, and a $65 million grant to widen an 18-mile portion of I-25 in Colorado.