Multiple bills under review at the Louisiana statehouse cover concerns about ongoing funding for the Crescent City Connection.
In November 2012, ballots in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes included a question asking voters whether the collection of tolls to access the U.S. 90 crossing should be extended for 20 years. Toll collection on the nation’s fifth-busiest bridge was scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2012.
By a 16-vote margin, voters authorized tolls on the Crescent City Connection to continue to be collected. The result was later challenged and a judge threw out the results. Toll collection was also suspended.
A revote on toll collection is scheduled for May 4.
Rep. Chris Leopold, R-Belle Chasse, has offered two bills to raise new revenue in case the upcoming vote tally puts an end to collection of tolls that generate about $21 million annually.
HB351 would require the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to give bridges with “high volumes of traffic” higher priority when determining the amount of funding for road and bridge work.
Another bill would serve as a safety net if voters opt to end toll collection. HB619 is intended to keep more local tax dollars instead of routing it to the state Transportation Trust Fund. Specifically, it relies on truck and trailer taxes and fees collected in surrounding parishes to benefit local work.
A related bill – HB235 – would increase a tobacco tax to help foot the bill for bridge expenses.
The tax on cigarettes would increase from 36 cents per pack to $1.41. Three-quarters of the new revenue would benefit a health care fund while the rest would help pay for the bridge’s upkeep.
One more bill – SB218 – would prevent the DOTD from collecting fines from drivers who received tickets since Jan. 1.
The bills are in committee.
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