Congressman Garret Graves shows concern for infrastructure needs in city


United States Congressman Garret Graves (La-06) is beginning his term representing the East Bank of Ascension Parish people with the people. After spending the first several weeks of his freshman year in Washington, D.C., the Baton Rouge native immediately found his way to Gonzales to meet and greet with the city’s leaders on March 12.  The topic of discussion for much of the dialogue was about infrastructure.

In an interview with the Weekly Citizen, Graves said when you look across the board at infrastructure across the country the investment in it has been at a “much lower rate than it needs to be when you look at the growth.”

“In places like Ascension where you have such incredible growth it’s bad,” Graves said, who sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

He said he met with the mayor and other leaders and talked about some of the acute infrastructure needs here, including things like Highway 30 around the Tanger Mall and Cabela’s, and around St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Graves said being on the transportation committee puts “us on a good spot to be involved in and ensuring that the resources are there and that we are prioritizing it and not going to build bridges to nowhere.”

Graves said South Louisiana is really experiencing a manufacturing renaissance, and added for years “we saw the manufacturing jobs going to China, to Mexico and even Brazil has had growth.”

“A lot of it had to do with the higher restrictions and cost in the U.S.,” Graves said. “But what’s happened in Louisiana that these other places don’t have is the maritime transportation system - the Mississippi River is a gold mine. It’s a strategic advantage that we have. It is the most inexpensive means of transportation. That’s one of the reasons why we can compete on a global scale.”

Graves said there are a lot of reasons to be here to be in Gonzales right now and described it as a “hot-bed” of growth. Considering the growth rate, Graves commended Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and said he is a very “experienced mayor and is doing a good job managing the growth and resources that are available.”

“Ultimately though, federal, state and local infrastructures are going to have to increase,” Graves said. “We all have to do a better job at managing the dollars that are available and prioritizing those and making sure we aren’t making investments into lower priority projects and programs.”

Graves also shared with the Weekly Citizen his concern of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ozone clean air proposals that would, if finalized, prevent Ascension Parish from offering any new capacity projects on the roads.

“It would prevent us being able to issue new air emit permits for new job opportunities,” Graves said.

Graves added: “The EPA to date has not been able to produce the science to justify these low numbers. Some people even believe you can shut down all the cars and all the smoke stacks and you still would not be able to achieve these numbers. We are working with them to make sure, while we all support a good balance between environmental protection and economic growth, we’re concerned this is a little too far on the environmental side and it’s not justified in the science.”