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After More Than Seven Successful Leadership Years, Wilson Set to Retire from Louisiana DOTD

Shawn D. Wilson
Shawn D. Wilson
BATON ROUGE, LA — After more than seven years as Secretary and more than 16 years of executive service at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. announces his retirement. During his tenure as Secretary, the state invested nearly $5.5 billion in infrastructure projects consisting of more than 2,230 projects and compiling nearly 7,000 miles of improvements.

Some of his most notable accomplishments center on big-ticket projects that have been on the books for years but never moved forward. With the prioritization of funds, the department has been able to make significant investments in preserving and growing the state’s infrastructure.

Impact by the Numbers
  • On January 26, 2017, DOTD let two of the three projects partially funded by the $60 million FASTLANE grant. On April 6, 2017, DOTD broke ground on the first project. The $124.7 million project involved pavement replacement within the existing lanes and the construction of an additional lane in each direction for 6.48 miles along I-10 from I-49 to LA 328. On August 3, 2017, the groundbreaking was held for the second widening project. This $54.7 million project also involved pavement replacement and a new lane in each direction for 2.7 miles along I-10 from LA 347 to the base of the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The last project will wrap up this year.
  • The recently completed I-20/I-220 interchange to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City will help traffic going to and from the air force base and will lead to congestion relief throughout the region. This $72 million project was made possible by using GARVEE bonds, a first for the state.
  • I-10 widening from Highland to LA 73 in Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes. This $72 million project widened 6.5 miles in this area that sees more than 95,000 vehicles a day.
  • The Loyola interchange to the newly constructed New Orleans terminal in Kenner. This $125.6 million project will improve traffic flow at the intersection of Loyola Drive and I-10 by utilizing the state’s first diverging diamond interchange, which eliminates the need for left turn signals at the intersections.
  • $135 million INFRA grant to begin the final phase of construction on the LA 1 elevated highway from Golden Meadow to Leeville.
  • The I-10 widening and capital area improvement project in Baton Rouge, which has been talked about for decades, has started. This project will add a lane in each direction through Baton Rouge, improve the I-10/I-110 merge where the interstate goes down to one lane, and add enhancements throughout the area.
  • The Comite River Diversion Project was brought to the finish line with a $353 million project consisting of a 12-mile-long diversion channel from the Comite River to the Mississippi River, in addition to guide levees, a control structure at Lilly Bayou, and four drop structures.

“While I am proud of the work we accomplished on these large projects across the entire state that have been much-needed for a long time, I also look at the smaller projects that have made positive impacts on our communities and citizens, and the emergency response efforts with just as much pride,” Wilson said. “I know I’m leaving DOTD and our state’s infrastructure system in a much better place and am proud of all the efforts that our dedicated employees have put in to improve Louisiana.”

Among many of those sometimes overlooked accomplishments, the department has:

  • Maintained approximately 16,500 miles of state highways and over 7,800 state-owned bridges
  • Operated and maintained three ferries and 100 moveable bridges
  • Expanded the Motorist Assistance Patrol program and provided roadside assistance to 932,312 motorists
  • Issued 1.3 million truck permits in support of Louisiana’s economy
  • Responded to 98 emergency events

Under Wilson’s tenure, DOTD created the innovative procurement office, utilized the state’s first GARVEE bond, and executed multiple design-build and construction manager-at-risk contracts, procurement methods that increase efficiency and cost savings while reducing time. While most of the visible projects were on the state’s highways, other infrastructure areas saw great successes over the last seven years, including:

  • The flood control program was doubled from $10 million to $20 million annually
  • More than 1,000 airport construction projects were funded
  • Increased the Port Priority Program from $20 million to $40 million annually
  • 32 Port Priority Programs were funded with $277 million
  • Completed dredging of the Lower Mississippi River to 50 feet for a cost of $262 million
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Many of the projects that have been completed and those that are still planned are a reflection of the fulfilled commitments and the type of infrastructure projects that can be produced through collaborative partnerships and funding. Working with the administration and legislature, Wilson has been able to secure significant funding commitments for major infrastructure projects across the state that have been talked about for decades.

Wilson worked with the legislature to find additional sources of revenue to dedicate for infrastructure needs, including an anticipated $300 million a year from vehicle sales tax for mega and capacity projects and a one-time $150 million investment in highway and bridge preservation projects in every parish. Wilson also put the state in the position of a new Baton Rouge Mississippi River Bridge and for a new and much-improved I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge. And, under his leadership, the department is spending $300 million on locally-owned bridges over the next five years.

Wilson set the department up to compete nationally and was successful in being awarded $482.9 million in federal grant competitive funding opportunities, which include:

  • $150 million toward the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles
  • $135 million toward the LA 1 Phase 2 projects from Golden Meadow to Leeville
  • $60 million for a 15-mile pavement replacement and lane addition project on I-10 between I-49 and the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge
  • $45 million toward the Belle Chasse Tunnel replacement
  • $25 million to assist with Phase 2 of the I-12 widening project
  • $35 million for the Southern University Ravine Project
  • $25 million for the design and construction of two ferry boats for both Plaquemines Parish and Cameron Parish

“It’s with a heavy heart and passion for public service that I step away from DOTD,” Wilson said. “It’s been my high honor to serve in this role during such a pivotal time for transportation, as major policy shifts are being made to shape the future of transportation in this country. Ensuring Louisiana’s infrastructure system is safe and reliable has been my goal for the last 16 years of my life, and it was an all-consuming effort. Now, I have new adventures and goals ahead, and it is time to make a life-changing move.”

Wilson was recognized for his efforts nationally, becoming the first African American President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials when the board of directors elected him to be their leader in 2020-2021. Wilson also serves as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which serves as an independent adviser to the President of the United States, Congress, and federal agencies on scientific and technical questions of national importance.

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