Voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines will decide Tuesday whether to extend the Crescent City Connection bridge tolls for an extra 20 years.
Monday, some local leaders gathered on the West Bank in one final push to educate voters on the issue.
Former House Speaker Jim Tucker says the state was hoping to recoup $32 million with tolls on the Crescent City Connection in 1992.
"The bridge was paid for with general obligation bonds, except for $32 million worth in last-minute construction needs. Those construction needs are what caused us to put the toll in place," Tucker explained.
Tucker says the money has been made, so he can't understand why motorists should have to keep paying a toll.
Tucker, along with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Jefferson Parish President John Young, want residents to vote "no" Tuesday to a proposition on the ballot that would renew the toll.
"Shame on us if we approve tolls that have been misspent for the last 20 years and let them misspend it for another 20," Nungesser said Monday.
The group says DOTD mismanaged the toll collections. "We know where the money went. It went to other projects outside of the metropolitan area," Tucker said.
But proponents of renewing the tolls, such as New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, disagree that the money was mismanaged. Clarkson says the tolls are needed to continue maintaining the bridge.
"For 40 cents you get maintenance, policing, lighting, upgrading structurally and environmentally," Clarkson said.
Whether the tolls pass or not, State Police will take over patrols of the bridge from the Crescent City Connection police. Some who are in favor of renewing the tolls worry there may not be enough money in the state budget to pay State Police to patrol the bridge, which is why they say the tolls are needed to help pay the troopers.
John Young disagrees that funding the troopers will be an issue. Meantime he's expressing concern that voters may not be fully aware of the toll measure's language.
"If you read the legislation, the state legislature over this next 20 years can increase the tolls without a vote by the people," Young explained.
He and the others are hoping residents will inform themselves on the full issue before casting a vote on Tuesday.
If the tolls aren't renewed, they'll expire at the end of this year.
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