Louisiana bill to rein in bridge deals on the move

| 5/21/2008

A bill nearing passage in the Louisiana Senate would address concern about the possible sale or lease of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

The Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee cleared the way for a bill to move to the full Senate. The bill would require legislative approval prior to any deals to sell or lease bridges more than five miles long. House lawmakers have already endorsed the measure – HB1081 – by unanimous consent.

A similar Senate-approved effort – SB407 – is awaiting consideration in a House committee.

The bills also would require lawmakers to get prior approval of 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 that 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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor