By: Lori LeBlanc for BIC Magazine
Many of us will travel along LA Highway 1 in Lafourche Parish this summer for a relaxing weekend on Grand Isle with family and friends or a world-class saltwater fishing trip in Fourchon. Did you know that this two-lane state highway traversing quiet bayou communities like Golden Meadow and Leeville is also America’s access to oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico?
Supporting 16 percent of domestic crude oil production and 4 percent of its natural gas production, LA 1 in southern Lafourche Parish is critical to our nation’s energy and economic security. It is the only land route to the bustling Port Fourchon, America’s busiest intermodal energy port, and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP). Together, LA 1 and Port Fourchon service 100 percent of deepwater oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, representing $4.5 billion in revenue to the U.S. Treasury and a $3.4 billion economic impact on the State of Louisiana. How many two-lane highways across the United States can claim that kind of contribution?
As deepwater activity increases, so does the role LA 1 plays in delivering people, products and services that fuel our offshore oil and gas industry and our economy. According to the LA 1 Coalition, an organization advocating for improvements to this critical highway, about 270 marine vessels depart Port Fourchon each day, delivering equipment and supplies to offshore operations in the Gulf. The equipment and supplies arrive at the port on commercial trucks via LA 1, with an estimated 24,000 trucks traveling along the highway to Port Fourchon during peak months.
That’s not all. LA 1 supports over $40 million in seafood production a year, provides highway access for over $528 million in coastal restoration projects, and is the sole evacuation route for 1,200 residents and up to 15,000 visitors to Grand Isle during the summer travel season. LMOGA members appreciate these tremendous contributions of LA 1, and we also know that without completion of the LA 1 Improvement Project, all of these contributions are at risk.
The LA 1 Improvement Project includes upgrades to the highway infrastructure along the LA 1 corridor from U.S. Highway 90 to Port Fourchon and Grand Isle to protect the vulnerable, at-grade highway from flooding, reduce weather-related road closures, support economic growth in the region, and improve traffic safety and emergency response. The first phase of the project – an 11-mile elevated highway from Leeville to Fourchon – was completed in 2011 with funding in part from a federal loan and bond sales that are being repaid with toll collections.
Phase 2 of the project includes 8.3 miles of elevated highway between Golden Meadow and Leeville. Construction on the first segment of Phase 2 has begun with funding from the State, industry partners, the LA 1 Coalition and the Greater Lafourche Port Commission. Completing Phase 2, however, will require additional money.
A bill offered by State Representative Tanner Magee of Houma in this year’s legislative session provides dedicated funding for the LA 1 Improvement Project and other state infrastructure needs from money set aside by the State for economic damages resulting from the 2010 Gulf oil spill and subsequent offshore drilling moratorium. With the passage of dedicated state funding for LA 1, the State will be able to use the funds as a match to apply for a federal grant to complete Phase 2 of the LA 1 Improvement Project. LMOGA strongly supports these efforts to secure the LA 1 Corridor and the role it plays in offshore oil and gas production.
This two-lane highway originally built to connect communities along Bayou Lafourche is now critical energy infrastructure that Gulf of Mexico oil and gas operators and Americans everywhere depend on to fuel our nation. Completing the LA 1 Improvement Project is not just good business for the local communities and our state, it is a crucial investment in America’s energy and economic security.