Just a few months ago, the outlook for our Mississippi River bridge and ferries looked bleak. In February, a legislatively created citizen task force told of dire cutbacks to the operations and maintenance of the bridge and the potential elimination of the three ferries if the Crescent City Connection tolls were not renewed. But the task force report received little to no media coverage and it appeared that the decision had all but been made to allow the tolls expire.
Unwilling to accept that fate, Transport for NOLA partnered with others who believe in common sense financing for our critical transportation infrastructure. We petitioned, we pushed for fair and balanced media coverage, we raised public awareness, we demonstrated and we spoke up at critical legislative meetings. We’re thrilled to report that our efforts have paid off.
On Sunday, both the House and Senate voted for HB 1212, a bill that will put the toll extension out to a general election. Assuming that Governor Jindal does not veto the bill, voters from Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes will now have the opportunity to weigh in during the November election. As people learn more about what’s at stake, support for maintaining the tolls continues to grow.
HB 1212 is not the ideal bill. Most notably, even if voters do approve a toll extension, the legislation prohibits toll revenue from going to the ferries. Fortunately, our legislators also passed SB 599, a bill that will direct $4 million in toll surplus revenue to purchase new ferries for privatized service; other efforts are in the works allocate $5 million annually as a subsidy for this service.
So now the hard work of educating the voters must begin. The facts are the same – without the tolls, we will be dependent on the State to allocate scarce transportation funds through what has become a highly politicized decision-making process; with the tolls, we can provide a dedicated and sustainable funding source to ensure that the Crescent City Connection stays in good repair for years to come. Transport for NOLA will continue to provide you with up to date coverage and ways to get involved. In the meantime, we ask that you start talking to your friends and neighbors about what’s at stake.