Louisiana bills cover variety of road issues

| 4/16/2010

The Louisiana Legislature recently convened its 2010 regular session. Lawmakers wasted little time getting started on a wide array of transportation-related topics. Among the issues being addressed are road work signs, toll relief and speed bumps.

House lawmakers unanimously approved a bill intended to save the state some money. Sponsored by Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, the measure throws out a requirement that highway signs be posted alerting the public about how much a road project costs, as well as the project start and finish dates.

At a cost of $500 per sign, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would save $280,500, according to a fiscal note on the bill. HB764 has advanced to the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

Rep. Jerry Gisclair, D-Larose, has introduced a pair of bills that would authorize free passage on the Tomey J. Doucet Bridge in Leeville under certain circumstances.

One bill would authorize emergency vehicles from Lafourche Parish to use the Louisiana Highway 1 bridge for free, even when they aren’t responding to an emergency. Gisclair is looking to add a provision that would include residents of Grand Isle among those who would be off the hook from paying a toll.

Tolls have been charged on the bridge since August 2009. As of Feb. 28, toll collections have totaled about $1.94 million, according to a fiscal note on the bill. To avoid losing money, the bridge needs to collect $4.8 million after 12 months.

Allowing free passage for emergency vehicles would eliminate nearly $12,000 worth of toll revenue annually, based on the state fiscal analysis. Including the town’s roughly 1,000 residents would put the lost revenue closer to $40,000.

Supporters say that Grand Isle is the only place in the state where there is no alternative route to avoid tolls. The fee is 50 cents.

Critics say the state needs all the money it can get to address a $1 billion shortfall looming for next fiscal year.

The bill – HB636 – is awaiting further debate in the House Appropriations Committee.

Another measure offered by Gisclair – HB182 – also addresses free passage on the Tomey J. Doucet Bridge. House lawmakers unanimously approved the bill, which would exempt Lafourche Parish-based emergency and official vehicles from paying $2.75 tolls.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

A separate bill before the Senate transportation panel aims to slow traffic on certain roads. Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, the House-approved bill – HB13 – is intended to clarify that parishes and cities are authorized to install speed bumps on non-state roads.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.