As they continue to seek federal funds to help rebuild infrastructure battered by Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast states have revised their needs estimates downward, but the new figures are still substantial. Top officials from the Louisiana and Mississippi transportation agencies now estimate that it will take $1.8 billion to reconstruct highway and bridges eligible for Federal Highway Administration emergency relief funds. That's down from a mid-September estimate of $2.4 billion.

Louisiana is asking Congress for $1.1 billion in FHWA emergency relief aid, says Johnny B. Bradberry, secretary of the state's Dept. of Transportation and Development. Of that, he says, about $600 million would be for rebuilding the "Twin Span" Interstate-10 crossing of Lake Pontchartrain, from Slidell to New Orleans.

Bradberry says $360 million would go for damage to south Louisiana highways and bridges submerged by the force of Hurricane Katrina. The other $140 million would be for repairs on bridges and roadways in the state. Work would be done over the next three years. In mid-September, U.S. Dept of Transportation officials said early estimates put Louisiana's federal-aid highway and bridge needs at $1.3 billion.

Mississippi now estimates Katrina caused $695 million in damage to federal-aid highways, Wayne H. Brown, Mississippi Transportation Commission southern district commissioner, told an Oct. 27 House highways, transit and pipelines subcommittee hearing. Most of that total would be for replacing two heavily damaged bridges on U.S. Route 90 along the coast. Each bridge would cost about $200 million, Brown said. U.S. DOT's mid-September estimate for Mississippi was $1.1 billion.

Bradberry also told the panel that his state faces an immediate cash-flow problem unless it receives additional federal FHWA emergency funding. He says his department is quickly approaching spending about $1 million a day on emergency repairs, and asked Congress for an immediate $100 million in funding. Without help, he says that by the middle of December, "We're going to run out of money."