Louisiana bill to drop rush-hour bridge toll dies

| 6/23/2006

A bill in the Louisiana Legislature that was intended to ease congestion on the Greater New Orleans Mississippi River bridges on U.S. 90 has died. The bridges carry between 180,000 to 200,000 vehicles daily.

Sponsored by Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, the bill was in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee when the session ended June 19, effectively killing it for the year.

The bill originally called for increasing the per-axle fee for toll tag users from 20 cents to 40 cents on the Crescent City Connection. It also exempted drivers from paying tolls between midnight and 7 a.m.

Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, amended his bill to reduce the proposed toll-free period to the peak drive hours of 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays.

Randy Paisant, assistant executive director of the Crescent City Connection, said the toll-free period was a bad idea.

“The congestion during that time would become worse. It would cause more congestion during those times because more traffic would attempt to use the bridge during those times when tolls would be free and therefore cause more congestion, more backups and more delays,” Paisant recently told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio.

“On top of that, the more congested traffic is, the more accidents and breakdowns occur and those compound themselves.”

The measure – SB97 – also would have decreased toll revenue on the bridges by about $2.2 million annually, according to a fiscal analysis.

A separate effort that called for at least two automated toll booths on the bridges also died.

Sponsored by Rep. Terrell Harris, D-Marrero, the bill – HB1284 – remained in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee when the session ended.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor


Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this article.