Louisiana lawmakers advance bills to rein in bridge deals

| 5/6/2008

Concern in the Louisiana Legislature about the possible sale or lease of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has spurred the advancement of two bills intended to rein in any potential deals.

The House unanimously approved a bill that would require legislative approval of any deals to sell bridges more than five miles long. Senate lawmakers unanimously approved a similar bill that also would include restrictions on lease deals.

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

Both versions – HB1081 and SB407 – have moved to the opposite chamber’s transportation panel.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor