Crescent City Connection tolls removed, new funding sought

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/10/2013

Truckers and others no longer have to pay up simply to cross the Crescent City Connection. Multiple bills under review at the Louisiana statehouse cover concerns about ongoing funding for the U.S. 90 crossing.

Voters in three parishes soundly rejected plans on May 4 to extend the collection of tolls for another 20 years. On the second referendum on the issue, more than three-quarters of voters chose to stop charging tolls to access the nation’s fifth-busiest bridge.

The initial vote on the issue was this past November. By a 16-vote margin, voters at the time authorized tolls to continue to be collected through 2032. The result was later challenged, and a judge threw out the results after ruling that some registered voters were not allowed to vote. Toll collection was also suspended.

In the days leading up to the public vote, the Louisiana House voted 80-11 to advance a bill that would raise new money to help cover lost toll revenue that amounted to $21 million a year ago.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Leopold, R-Belle Chasse, 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 from Leopold would keep more local tax dollars instead of routing it to the state Transportation Trust Fund. Specifically, HB619 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.

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

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