Louisiana governor signs bill to rein in bridge deals

| 7/15/2008

A new law in Louisiana addresses concerns about the possible sale or lease of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Other bills of note that failed to gain passage sought to help pay for road and bridge work and create a truck safety fund.

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law that requires legislative approval of any deals to sell or lease bridges that are more than five miles long.

The new law, previously SB407, also requires lawmakers to give 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 said the legislation was needed, The Times-Picayune reported.

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

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

A separate bill that died would have expanded 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 called for authorizing 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 – never advanced from a House committee.

Another bill that died in committee sought to route truck fines to a new Motor Carrier Safety Fund. Sponsored by Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, the measure – SB485 – would have dedicated revenue from motor carrier safety fines and penalties to the fund.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor