BOSSIER PARISH (KTAL/KMSS) – Ground was broken Wednesday on a project to build a new access road into Barksdale Air Force Base from the I-20/I-220 interchange.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards joined the Dept. of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D. and local and state leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony on the $71.8 million project, which will create a new access road into the base extending southward from the I-20/I-220 interchange.
The image below with construction areas highlighted in purple is provided by the DOTD. They say it is not an exact drawing of the design of the project, but shows generally what it will look like.
“This particular project has been many years in the making, and we stand here today with all of the pieces being put into place through the perseverance of a team set on seeing this project come to fruition.” Gov. Edwards said in a statement released shortly after the groundbreaking ceremony. “Barksdale Air Force Base has been in this community for nearly 90 years, a pillar of both the nation’s security and the local and state economy. I couldn’t be more proud to celebrate this project today.”
With the support of Gov. Edwards, DOTD pursued approval of the Joint Transportation Committee to utilize the design-build method of project delivery. The design-build method can expedite project delivery by combining the design and construction phases.
State officials say the new road and gate will “take into account projected population growth and increased traffic counts, serve to greatly enhance security, and alleviate traffic congestion at other base entrance points. It will also improve access times for Barksdale employees and their families, providing easier commutes to schools and other local attractions.”
“Breaking ground on this much-needed piece of infrastructure is a fantastic way to mark National Infrastructure Week, as we continue to seek innovative funding methods and stretch every dollar for use in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” said Dr. Wilson in a statement released following the ceremony. “We’re connecting two heavily traveled interstates with one of the largest military installations in the nation. But we wouldn’t be celebrating this today without support from our local and federal partners, and the hard-working DOTD staff and consultants.”
The project has been a part of the state’s Transportation Master Plan for many years, and until recently had no environmental clearance or funding source identified.
Now, it’s one of three major infrastructure projects being funded through the state’s first issuance of GARVEE bonds, which are special bonds that will be repaid over 12 years using federal funds allocated to Louisiana. DOTD has received the three approvals required by the Legislature to begin to access these bonds.
The governor’s office says funding commitments have been made by the City of Bossier, Bossier Parish, and local Metropolitan Planning Organization as well as public support from economic development groups in the region. The project was listed as the number one priority Mega Project by the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (MPO), noting the urgency and need for an improved access point for BAFB due to the base’s status as a critical asset.
“The Barksdale/I-220 entrance project enhances base security, improves access for personnel, and readies the base for future mission growth,” said Col. Michael Miller, 2nd Bomb Wing Commander, BAFB. “We’d like to thank our community and state partners who made this project happen on such a rapid timeline.”
U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) released the following statement Wednsday following groundbreaking on the project:
One of my distinct honors of working for the Fourth District is representing Barksdale Air Force Base, which plays a critical role in maintaining America’s military superiority and readiness. Even now, its B-52 bombers are on mission in the Middle East to deter our enemies and reassert our capabilities. The I-20/I-220 Barksdale Air Force Base Interchange Project will create direct access from the base to the interstate, which will promote further innovation and remove unnecessary risks, traffic congestion and delays. I am proud to have worked with many great people in securing the funding necessary to start this project and look forward to seeing all of the positive effects it will have for Barksdale and our community.
In addition, US Reprensentative Ralph Abraham was apart of the delegation pushing to get the funding for the interchange and gate. “There were people in D.C. that didn’t want us to recieve this funding. We fought tooth and nail and was very forunate to get into the budget,” said Abraham.
With the Barksdale interchange project underway, Abraham is looking forward to the growth of the base. “The project will make Barksdale bigger and better. It will make Barksdale revelant in the years to come,” said Abraham.
Construction work is expected to begin late summer 2019 and it’s expected to be completed in the fall of 2021.