Louisiana bills address bridge deals, other funding

| 4/21/2008

Concern in the Louisiana Legislature about the possible sale or lease of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has spurred the advancement of a bill intended to rein in any potential deals. Other bills of note would help pay for road and bridge work and create a truck safety fund.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a bill that would require legislative approval of any deals to sell or lease bridges more than five miles long. The measure – HB1081 – now awaits consideration on the House floor.

Sponsored by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, the bill also would require lawmakers to approve deals that transfer management, control or operation of bridges to public or private groups.

Citing concerns about confidential talks between Causeway officials and a Baton Rouge, LA, company about buying or operating the 24-mile long span that links Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, supporters say the legislation is needed, The Times-Picayune reported.

Others say there is concern such a deal would lead to higher tolls.

The bill would not prohibit contracts from being signed for bridge repairs, maintenance, cleaning or other work. Tolls also could be collected.

A separate bill would expand the number of road and bridge projects eligible for revenue from the Transportation Mobility Fund. The special state fund is eligible to get money from deposited grants, gifts and donations received by the state and any other revenues available, whether local, state or federal.

In addition to toll projects, the bill would authorize money from the fund to be made available for construction, maintenance and operation of other transportation work.

Sponsored by Rep. Don Trahan, R-Lafayette, the measure – HB1056 – is in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

Another bill would route truck fines to a new Motor Carrier Safety Fund. Sponsored by Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, the measure would dedicate revenue from motor carrier safety fines and penalties to the fund.

The bill – SB485 – is in the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor