Michot named interim director of the I-49 South Coalition (updated)

MORGAN CITY, La. — Former state Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette was named the interim executive director of the I-49 South Coalition on a pro bono basis.

State Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, made the announcement Wednesday at the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce business luncheon where he was the featured speaker at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City.

The I-49 South Coalition is needed, along with an executive director who will “live, eat and breathe” the project to keep it moving, Allain said. Having Michot on board until a full time permanent director can be hired will help accomplish that.

Allain said that Michot’s experience as finance chairman in the Senate will put him in a strong position to locate financing sources for the long overdue project.

“Mike Michot is passionate about getting the interstate off the ground in Lafayette and he will be a big asset to us in getting the project funded,” Allain said.

The Lafayette connection will cost about $1 billion, Allain said.

Allain said experience has shown the project needs to be shovel-ready and funding lined up for those small windows of opportunity when money becomes available to begin projects.

The I-10 and I-12 corridors have seen growth and expansion with economic development and business growth, by as much as 39 percent, Allain said.

“This could have and should have happened here, if we had had I-49 plans in place,” he said.

Allain said getting to this stage has been accomplished through hard work, including the commitment of Reps. Sam Jones, D-Franklin and Joe Harrison, R-Gray.

The senator, who has also served on the governor’s I-49 Task Force for several years, said that the study on the stretch between the Calumet Cut and the Morgan City bridge is being completed.

The Department of Transportation and Development held meetings with elected officials earlier this year and presented initial recommendations.

Allain said after those meetings, the I-49 South Coalition made 22 recommendations for changes and adjustments, 17 of which DOTD supported.

Allain called the stretch of U.S. 90 that is the future I-49 the Energy Corridor of America.

Raising the highway to interstate standards is a safety issue, necessary for storm evacuation and vital to the growth and vitality of the region, he said.

Allain said $100 million is in place for getting a stretch of the interstate done in Lafayette and the coalition is working on developing funding for other projects closer to St. Mary Parish. That would include temporary J turns and access roads. That interim phase is expected to cost about $14 million and the funds should be found in a year or two.

After the interim phase the next step would be the freeway phase of the project during which the J-turns would be removed.

“The J-turns are just temporary. They are being done in the interim to save lives,” Allain said.

Allain said there will be a bridge over the Calumet Cut that connects La. 182 on both sides of the waterway.

Most of the interstate would be at ground level, he said.

with overpasses where needed, he said.

Allain said there will be a need to be creative in funding the project and all options such as gasoline tax redistribution, private/public partnerships and even some sort of toll on new sections should be open for consideration.

Jones said he is opposed to any sort of tolls.

“They got I-49 North done for free and it will be free here,” Jones said referring to his intent to keep tolls out of the discussion.

Allain said he, Jones and Harrison are fighting to save the La. 182 bridge from demolition. Allain said while it is expensive to maintain the bridge, the delegation is fighting to keep the bridge over the river open and continue funding the maintenance of the bridge.

The Daily Review attempted to contact Michot for this story, but was unable to speak with him prior to publication deadline.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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