Mike Johnson Letter to Governor Urges I-49 Construction
Congressman Mike Johnson, along with a number of national, state and local leaders, sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards and other state leaders urging the prioritization of Shreveport's I-49 Inner City Connector.
In addition to Johnson, signees included United States Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, State Senators Barrow Peacock and Greg Tarver, State Representatives Larry Bagley and Sam Jenkins and Mayors Adrian Perkins and Lo Walker.
Here is the complete text of the correspondence:
This letter is being sent to express our concerns with the continued delays in the environmental review process for the I-49 Inner-City Connector (ICC) project in Shreveport, and to request your immediate assistance in ensuring the task is completed quickly and correctly.
Though it has long been understood that the ICC is vital to the sustainability and advancement of Northwest Louisiana and the surrounding region, it is even more important today. As our state begins the long and difficult process of rebuilding its economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, we must prioritize key infrastructure projects that will stimulate economic growth and put our people back to work. Completing the ICC will result in an estimated $800 million in annual impact in Louisiana and thousands of new jobs.
As you know, the environmental review process for the I-49 project is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While this is a federal statute, the leaders of each state typically assume the responsibility of satisfying its requirements, namely preparing a project’s environmental impact statement (EIS). Without an EIS it is not possible to obtain a final Record of Decision (ROD) by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is necessary to complete a project’s construction.
Although Louisiana has routinely completed an EIS in a timely manner for many other federal/state projects in the past, the ICC has been a frustrating exception. While the community leaders and elected officials signed on to this letter have worked tirelessly for years to advance the ICC, the countless delays and missed deadlines with the EIS have created a roadblock.
By any objective measure, the ICC EIS has been an outlier. More than three years ago, in April 2017, it was estimated and publicly reported that a ROD would be issued by December 2017 or January 2018. Of course, it was not, and many subsequent deadlines for completion have also been missed.
On May 18, 2020, we received word from DOTD that the environmental work for this project would continue through the rest of this year and virtually all next year. Initially forecasting a December 2017 completion date and missing that mark by four years is entirely unacceptable.
When compared to other, even larger projects around the country, the ICC EIS has been an abject failure. From 2010-2017, the national average of the time it took a FHWA project to produce a draft EIS was approximately 4.5 years. Since the ICC EIS formally began in 2012 (when the FHWA issued a notice of intent to prepare it), we are now more than eight years into the project without even a draft EIS in hand.
Since the ICC has already taken twice as long as the national average, we simply cannot afford or tolerate any further delays. The people of Northwest Louisiana deserve better and are desperate for your assistance. The completion of I-49 is key to our region’s revival and growth so that we can fulfill our unlimited potential and reverse our economic slump and crisis of outmigration.
Please help us by confirming in a reply that you will do everything in your power to complete the environmental review as quickly as possible while maintaining the integrity of the process. We also respectfully request your attendance at a public meeting in Northwest Louisiana as soon as that can be arranged so that this important matter can be discussed with all stakeholders.
We stand ready to assist you in any way that we can.
A total of thirty six elected officials, civiv and business leaders signed the letter, sent to Governor John Bel Edwards, DOTD Secretary, Dr. Shawn Wilson, Louisiana Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Wes Bollenger and Kent Rogers, Execurive Director of the North Louisiana Council on Governments.