SHREVEPORT, La. -- Based on all the criticism, Shreveport-Bossier state Sen. Barrow Peacock must feel like he’s walking a plank. Or more accurately, a bridge — the Jimmie Davis Bridge.
Peacock is taking heat for the way funding was reached for the long needed Jimmie Davis Bridge vs. completion of Interstate 49.
In essence, Peacock says monetary maneuvering will result in a huge net gain for the ArkLaTex. But not everybody’s buying it.
“He had one project completely funded,” said John Perkins, an advisor with the Allendale Strong group. "And that was the one making everybody mad; he had the bridge funded.”
The Allendale strong group is not happy with the way Peacock maneuvered funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge or I-49.
Peacock explained what was done in Senate Bill 578 (SB578) in the recent legislative session.
"Originally, when this bill came through the Senate Finance Committee, there was $100 million in it towards the Jimmie Davis Bridge. We redirected that $100 million towards the inter-city connector for I-49. You do that so we can leverage our state dollars with our federal dollars," Peacock said.
None of that was winning over Perkins.
“The bridge could have started work — shovel ready in February 2021,” said Perkins. "It had $100 million, now it has only $24 million. So it has to find some more funding.”
That $24 million Perkins referred to is currently allocated in the House Bill 2, the Capital Outlay bill.
But at a recent Bossier City Council meeting, Councilman Scott Irwin was unhappy. In a story on the "Bossier Now" website, Irwin said: “We’re right back to square one, and square one means the Jimmie Davis Bridge is not funded. I’m furious about this ill-conceived decision.”
But Peacock is confident he made the right choice, explaining how leveraging state money with federal money can get both projects completed.
“So we can use the $24 million, leverage it with federal money to get $119 million plus, for a new Jimmie Davis Bridge,” Peacock said. "We want to use the $100 million for I-49. Leverage that, pull down potentially $400 million. So we’ll have half a billion dollars for the 3.8 miles to finish I-49.”
“I just think he’s dreaming if he thinks money’s going to fall out of the sky,” Said Perkins.
But Peacock was adamant in his position.
“If we just used the $100 million originally put in HB578, and did not leverage that,” Peacock said. "We would be shortchanging Shreveport-Bossier.”
Shortchanging this much according to Peacock: total funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge would be $123,991,700. Funding for I-49 would be zero, with the bridge equaling the entire spending package in Shreveport-Bossier.
Peacock factored in the federal leverage.
“By using federal money we’re basically resulting in an extra $495 million in spending in the Shreveport-bossier area for infrastructure.” Peacock said.
Still unbelieving, Perkins remains just as adamant in his objections to the plan.
“He made a mistake,” said Perkins. "He should own it.”
One thing they can agree on, both projects need to get done. Environmental studies need to be in the rear view mirror and final decisions reached.
“Next year in 2020 it’s supposed to be put out for bid,” said Peacock. “I won’t be satisfied until I’m driving across a new Jimmie Davis Bridge.”
“I don’t believe I’ll be driving on it in my lifetime,” said Perkins.
Peacock says 25,000 cars a day cross the Jimmie Davis Bridge and Shreveport-Bossier needs to be proud of its infrastructure.
Despite all the maneuvering, Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson was recently quoted in the Bossier Press Tribune, saying: “I do not have enough money for Jimmie Davis, nor do I have enough money for I-49 north”
Let the maneuvering continue.