January 26, 2024
The Infrastructure Transition Council
About the Council
The Infrastructure Transition Council was established at the request of Governor Jeff Landry to identify the most pressing issues related to industry and to discuss and propose solutions to not only make Louisiana government more efficient, but also reduce barriers hindering economic growth. This Council was led by David Madden and included voices from across the political and policy spectrum. After multiple meetings internally and externally with DOTD, the Council made the following recommendations.
Transform DOTD into Louisiana’s Most Effective State Agency
The Council believes there is a need for revolutionary change to modernize DOTD into a more agile and responsive agency led by a dynamic and aggressive Secretary closely aligned with the Governor’s stated vision that the status quo is unacceptable.
1. Evaluate and clarify the reporting structure within DOTD, especially between the Office of Operations and the Office of Engineering.
2. Maximize dedicated external contractors for grant writing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of securing funds. Align the goals for grant writing with LED’s.
3. Establish a DOTD legislative liaison role focused on coordinating agency priorities.
4. Implement Management and Extension of Staff programs to address the experience gap between senior-level and entry-level employees to reduce the risk of knowledge loss with the large number of eligible retirees and to lower turnover rates.
5. Identify areas where privatization can be most effective in terms of taxpayer investment return and fully leverage the private sector for specific scopes of work/programs.
6. Initiate a specialized program focused on developing local contractors for Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) roles.
7. Implement a policy to ensure prompt payment to vendors, thereby bolstering their reliability and financial stability in collaboration with DOTD.
8. Require the development and reporting of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to DOTD leadership, especially those KPI’s that have substantial impacts on project schedules.
9. Transfer the oversight of scale houses back to the Louisiana State Police to streamline operations and utilize resources more efficiently.
10. Establish a one-stop shop for all permits. This state ‘czar’ should define exact requirements and institute timelines before projects start.
11. Rename the Multimodal Office to the Office of Ports and Multimodal Commerce (PMC) and elevate it to a cabinet-level position with the head appointed by the Governor as a Commissioner.
12. Move the OPD’s strategic planning functions from LED to the PMC while requiring LED to participate in statewide strategic planning for ports.
13. Create FAST Response Teams for system lockdown, traﬃc delays, extended outages and route closures to reduce the frustration level of the public. These FAST Teams would be pre-contracted, on-call, and equipped with all capabilities from multi-disciplinary design engineers, contractors, testing, and instrumentation to major bridge specialists.
Implement a Statewide Master Plan for Integrated Transportation
The Council could not decipher an existing unified master plan that addresses all transportation modes and the inter-relationships of each mode. As the state transportation system is the fabric of the basic economy, Louisiana will continue to lag in competitiveness if we cannot get the entire system (roads, bridges, rail, ports, and airports) functioning together as a unit.
1. Focus on rehabilitating and overlaying rural roads across Louisiana, particularly targeting ‘source-to-market’ routes with moderate to significant traﬃc demand and significance. This should be guided by several key objectives: Economies of Scale, Universal Beneﬁt across State, Safety, Eﬃcient Management and Timeline.
2. Determine priorities through a risk-based approach which will accelerate or attenuate
projects by consequence considering the effects of economics, safety, and quality of life.
3. Replace the five outdated moveable bridges operated by DOTD on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). These bridges have been identified as ‘most critical/in need of replacement’ to facilitate safe and efficient inland maritime transportation and storm
4. Establish an Advisory Task Force that includes the DOTD’s bridges office, the Louisiana Association of Waterways Operators, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, and the local DOTD offices – including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers in an advisory capacity – to develop a strategic plan within 45 days for maintenance and bridge replacement.
5. Immediately take steps to install navigational safety aides on Lower Mississippi River (LMR) bridges. DOTD must immediately fund and undertake installation of air gap sensors on the remaining bridges on the Lower Mississippi River.
6. Include rail in all master planning. Continue the successful Short Line Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program, providing a dedicated funding source that allows for multi-year planning and projects starting and finishing earlier. Improve Grade Crossing Safety with a coordinated effort to receive federal funding through IIJA.
7. Direct DOTD and LDR to use current jet fuel pricing to estimate collections for the fund and properly budget for the Aviation Trust Fund and aviation program project development needs.
8. Make trucking in Louisiana safer and more competitive by streamlining rules and regulations for Louisiana’s truckers.
9. Retain and fully fund the current Port Priority Program for small and non-deep draft ports.
10. Establish a Port Advisory Committee (PAC).
11. Mandate the PAC to develop a Port Strategic Plan (PSP) to submit to the PMC Commissioner and meet at least semi-annually to approve the strategic plan and make annual updates, with approval by no less than a 2/3 vote.
12. Set a goal of increasing state port funding from $40 million per year to $150 million per year, with $100 million for the six deep draft ports and $50 million for other ports.
13. Ensure DOTD closely coordinates with the LED on all existing and new infrastructure matters that can help bring industry and jobs to our State.
Establish Sustainable Funding for Infrastructure The Council leadership, a 23-member working group, and transition staff attended three separate presentations on both the current (2024) and submitted (2025) DOTD budgets.
Detailed transition packets and subsequent questions were also reviewed by Council members who are all subject matter and business experts. Nearly every participant reached the same conclusion: DOTD is underfunded in physical construction dollars, is top heavy with administrative and operations costs, is limited by archaic policies around items like IT and post- retirement benefits, and is badly in need of overall budget reform. The Governor, the Secretary, and the Legislature should explore all options to properly fund public infrastructure.
Potential Funding Options
1. Reform the Vehicle Sales Tax allocation.
2. Toll some projects. The process of adding tolling authorities is byzantine even by Louisiana standards but tolls are proven funding mechanisms that have been successfully deployed by Florida and Texas. Louisiana’s crucial Megaprojects face a significant funding challenge. These projects, including the Calcasieu River Bridge, require substantial funding beyond what the MVST and dedicated Gasoline Tax allocation provide. Louisiana must identify ways to integrate tolling as sustainable financing channels for infrastructure.
3. Maximize efforts to receive federal funding.
4. Utilize federal BEAD funding to deploy broadband to remaining unserved areas.
5. Consider the sale or leaseback of DOTD owned real estate.
6. Establish a dedicated port infrastructure development fund and increase program funding to $150M.