Meet Renee Lapeyrolerie

Q&A with a St. John Native & State Leader of Multimodal Commerce

For three decades, Renee Lapeyrolerie has been committed to a life of service. That singular drive has been manifest in multiple roles across various industries–political consulting, public relations, engineering, and even an interim role with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. Lapeyrolerie sees each previous challenge as a building block that prepared her for her most significant job to date, as Commissioner of the Office of Multimodal Commerce for the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development. Lapeyrolerie caught up with Port Log to recount her professional journey so far, to discuss her department’s vital role in Louisiana, and to look forward to her next big projects.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started on your career path?  I am a proud native of Reserve and grew up half a football field from the Mississippi River. I now live half a mile from it in New Orleans. My career started with a communications degree from Loyola University and an interest in public service and policy. The bulk of my resume is as a communications professional and political consultant, including two presidential campaigns. I also served as the executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

What drew you to a role with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development?  I was recruited by an engineering firm as a client service leader for Louisiana. I served eight years there and learned a great deal about water, energy, environment, and the transportation study, planning, design and build processes. I became passionate about infrastructure and all that it means to communities. My collective experience is of great benefit to me in this role. This office serves to coordinate the four primary modes of transportation through communications, collaboration and planning. The Office of Multimodal Commerce was created by an act of the legislature to elevate multi-modalism to a level commensurate with its role in our state’s economy. I had the tremendous honor of being appointed to this position by Governor John Bel Edwards.

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Why is multimodal transportation such a critical player in Louisiana’s economy?  Louisiana is a multimodal state. Multimodal transportation is the backbone of Louisiana commerce, industry and trade. Our coastal and inland ports are economic hubs for their communities and support the nation’s agriculture and petrochemical industries, among other industries. We have 69 public airports, 39 active ports, 6 class 1 railroads, and a vast network for commercial trucking. The system accounts for a $6.7 billion direct economic output and 59,000 jobs.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your current role?  It is a work in progress, but to assist our partners in maximizing federal budget allocations to Louisiana, particularly via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. I have heard from stakeholders that we are doing a better job of communicating.

What have been some of your greatest challenges, and how have you overcome them?  We did not slow down during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have a great team, and they kept our critical infrastructure grant programs on target while trying to remain healthy.

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Are there new advancements or initiatives you’re particularly excited about right now?  At this very moment, initiating a study of the Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger rail service and also knowing that the I-20 corridor will be studied. I am also excited about the future of the Port of South Louisiana. This port has great multimodal accessibility for rail, trucking, and even air cargo. It is the link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which are all ports of Louisiana. We are competing against Texas, Alabama and Georgia, not against our brothers and sisters, and I have seen the ports finding ways to work cooperatively.

How do you keep your job exciting?  My job is authentically exciting; there is something new almost every day. There is nothing like a site visit, particularly with a boat ride. I have yet to participate in any aerial inspections with our aviation section.

Outside of your professional role, what else are you passionate about? I am passionate about my Momma, my ancestry, and I am becoming known in certain circles as a grower and promoter of the Louisiana heirloom mirliton. I am a part of a group under the banner, and we profile growers around the state and ask them to share seed after they get their annual Fall crop. We want to get mirliton vines back on hurricane fences in people’s yards again.

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