June 20, 2016 2:00 PM, EDT

New Louisiana Gov. Emphasizes Infrastructure

Office of the Governor of Louisiana

John Bel Edwards, who became Louisiana’s Governor last November is making infrastructure funding a priority.

"For years, the Transportation Trust Fund has been raided to pay for other priorities, leaving a $12 billion backlog in critical infrastructure projects," Edwards said June 10. "Those days are over. It's time we start reinvesting in our roads, bridges and ports, and by re-engaging our federal partners, we're going to do everything we can to improve infrastructure across Louisiana."

Three days earlier, Edwards signed an executive order that created the Governor's Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure, of which Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, will be co-chairman. The 18-member task force, which is due to deliver recommendations to Edwards by Jan. 1, is also supposed to build political and business support for legislation in 2017 "to fund a robust, multimodal construction program," according to Wilson’s department.

"Over the next six months, the task force will craft a plan for Louisiana to meet its full potential as a leader in multimodal transportation,” Wilson said in a statement. “With sound and sustainable policy, DOTD can and will deliver a transportation system the people of Louisiana deserve."

DOTD has identified $10.5 billion worth of new major transportation improvements or ''megaprojects" needed throughout Louisiana.

Edwards said he wants "to see expedited and vastly increased action and resources devoted to maintaining existing transportation infrastructure, specifically bridges, and constructing new projects that reduce congestion, improve safety and quality of life, expand economic opportunity and provide effective mobility through a variety of multimodal transportation options."