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BAFB interchange is a good thing

by Minden Press-Herald

Finally, the promises of Interstate 220 relieving the traffic and security concerns of Barksdale Air Force Base and of responsible Bossier governmental spending both seem realistic.

When built decades ago, I-220 intentionally created a work in progress. Looping only around the northern parts of Shreveport and Bossier City made sense then, since population concentrated in the areas north of I-20. Only sporadic development existed south of Shreveport’s Broadmoor and westward and off of the Mansfield Road and Jewella Road corridors, and on the east bank of the Red River the same applied south of Barksdale.

Although growth has occurred from both areas in a northerly direction – largely spurred by I-220 – it most dramatically has headed south, filling in the gaps on the river’s west side and on the east rolling past Barksdale. That created access problems for the base, especially at the main gate which suffers from separation by railroad tracks, as well as with equipment movement at the north gate, also impeded by rails.

Shreveport has had it own struggles over how to send I-220 south and to the river, but that never has been an option for Bossier City since the base takes up so much land area. Any looping will come from the future I-69 that essentially will make vehicles coming off the present I-220 to head east several miles before taking a right and heading south.

But long ago, planners envisioned the Bossier intersection of I-20/I-220 to lead to base access. The question was finding money to complete it, complicated by unusual security and environmental challenges.

The answer came in the form of Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds, which take existing federal government highway aid and use it to pay long-term notes, leveraging to make money available immediately. Last week, the first steps of legislative approval took place, all but guaranteeing that next year’s capital outlay budget will start project funding.

As part of the $90 million deal, local entities must pony up 20 percent of that over 12 years. The consortium of northwest Louisiana local governments will pitch in $1 million annually, while Bossier City and Parish additionally will fork over $250,000 yearly.
That runs both entities against type. In recent years, particularly Bossier City has earned a reputation for spending lavishly on matters of peripheral concern, such as a money-losing arena and a parking garage for an insolvent retail development. The parish joined in on perhaps the largest boondoggle of them all, the high-tech Cyber Innovation Center office building that has attracted over a decade a fraction of jobs touted. Altogether, the local public dollars wasted on these could paid for and built the I-220 base entrance by now.

Better late than never: while all those other projects should have been left for the private sector to pursue, roads unquestionably fall under the responsibility of government. At least for the time being, Bossier City and Parish have got their priorities right, and perhaps the days of their foolish spending have come to an end.

Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer or this newspaper.

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