Ground broken for last leg of I-49 extension

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Ground was broken Friday on the last leg of the I-49 extension from Shreveport to the Arkansas border.

Segment J of the extension will stretch form Louisiana Highway 1 to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in north Shreveport.

The Times reports ( ) Department of Transportation and Development representatives met Friday with area leaders from Shreveport and Bossier City at the Christian Faith Worship Center Church International to ceremonially till the earth.

Construction is expected to last more than two years, but will mark the beginning of the end of a public works project that began in the 1990's. Following several years of discussion with local and state officials, DOTD began work on the first segment of the I-49 north project in the fall of 2006.

Now, segment's A through D are complete and segments E through I are under construction. The total cost of the project is about $670 million.

"It's a combination of funding, it's a combination of federal funds, federal stimulus dollars, state surplus dollars, state capital outlay dollars, federal funds, unclaimed property funds," said Transportation Secretary, Sherri LeBas. "A project of this magnitude many times takes a partnership, joint effort of combining many different funding sources to fund a project such as this."

The funding for the I-49 project is already secured, and the entire endeavor is expected to be completed by late 2016.

Once completed, the extension is projected to bring an unprecedented amount of road traffic through Shreveport.

"Our projections, in 2020 show that there will be almost 40,000 cars driving this corridor daily," LeBas said. "You can see what the economic benefit of this road is. It's just going to open up the area for the economy, tourist industry, moving goods and services, our trucking industry and will make traveling safe for the traveling public."

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