Senator criticizes Gov. Blanco on I-10 toll proposal

| 8/11/2006

A U.S. senator from Louisiana is calling a tolling proposal by Gov. Kathleen Blanco a “particularly bad and unfair idea” in the wake of last year's devastating hurricane season.

In a letter obtained by Land Line dated Aug. 10, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, expressed his opposition to Blanco's “expression of interest” application to the Federal Highway Administration to seek tolls on Interstates 10 and 12.

The I-10/I-12 corridor measures 360 miles, with 40 miles of additional loops.

“Governor, I would oppose these sorts of tolls on existing roadways like I-10 and I-12 under any circumstances,” Vitter wrote in his letter. “But in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I think that it is a particularly bad and unfair idea.”

Vitter called those interstates “lifelines” for thousands of people affected by the hurricanes.

“Many of them commute on these highways daily, often traveling far distances to work and to repair their severely damaged homes,” Vitter wrote. “To impose a significant tax on these trips – on top of their hurricane losses, on top of high gasoline prices – is wrong and counterproductive.”

Vitter said truckers would be at a particular disadvantage.

“Slapping tolls on I-10 and I-12 would impose an unfair burden not only on these motorists, but on Louisiana businesses including the trucking and freight industry also,” he wrote. “In response, truckers would certainly seek alternative routes to avoid the tolls, and thus revenue generated from the tolls would be reduced, as would state sales-tax revenue along the entire route.”

Vitter, who said he has secured federal funding for state transportation projects including improvements to both aforementioned interstates, criticized the governor for not informing him of her intention to file the FHWA application.

Vitter sent copies of the letter to other Louisiana lawmakers.

By David Tanner, staff writer