Legislature approves funds for El Camino

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 22, 2008

VIDALIA — Recent legislative action will send an infusion of money to U.S. 84, one of the major highways through Concordia Parish.

During its second special session, called largely to pass tax reforms, the state legislature designated surplus funds to one-time expenditures, and one of those expenditures was directed to Louisiana’s portion of the El Camino corridor.

The legislature was able to obtain $6 million for the El Camino corridor, Sen. Neil Riser said.

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“That’s (the highway) a critical link that joins our parishes and our economic future,” Riser said.

The El Camino corridor runs along U.S. 84, and some of the slated work will be in the Catahoula-Concordia area, said Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, who is a member of the El Camino Corridor Commission.

The commission lobbies at both the state and national level to obtain funding for the highway’s development.

Copeland said he hopes this will be the first step in getting U.S. 84 four-laned through Louisiana.

“Economically, it would be a tremendous boost,” Copeland said.

Once the highway is four-laned, the towns it passes through will be able to use it as an industrial development recruiting tool, similar to having an interstate highway pass through an area, Copeland said.

An additional $1.395 million were appropriated for the highway in LaSalle Parish, Riser said.

The appropriations were prioritized in part by the capacity and usage of the highway, Riser said.

The El Camino corridor is a portion of U.S. 84 that extends from Brunswick, Ga., to El Paso, Texas.

Of the five states the corridor passes through, Louisiana has the fewest miles of four-lane highway with only 11-12 percent four-laned.

Mississippi has almost completed its four-laning of the highway, and all of the other states have completed between 75-85 percent of their four-laning, Copeland said.

The highway becomes a two-lane after it turns westward in Ferriday. It runs through Concordia, Catahoula, LaSalle, Winn, Natchitoches and Sabine Parishes.