Judge orders new election to be held on CCC tolls

Traffic passes through the CCC toll plaza as booths stand empty (photo by Jessica Holly)
Traffic passes through the CCC toll plaza as booths stand empty (photo by Jessica Holly)

A judge in Baton Rouge has ordered a new election to be held regarding tolls on the Crescent City Connection.  And officials on the bridge say toll collection has been suspended until further notice.

Civil Court Judge William Morvant of the 19th Judicial District issued his decision Tuesday afternoon, finding that a group of anti-toll activists had met the burden of proof.

A recount of November's vote was held February 16.  At the time, the vote to renew the tolls for another 20 years was upheld, by a count of just 36 votes.

Tuesday's decision by Morvant nullifies the results of that election.  The new election will be held on May 4.

The judge on Monday began hearing the suit brought by the group "Stop the Tolls", which argued that 1,000 voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes who needed to use provisional ballots were only allowed to vote in the federal elections, not on the toll issue.  The plaintiffs presented their case Monday.

State election officials presented their case Tuesday, after the judge rejected their request to dismiss the suit.

"Clearly, there were mistakes at the local level for this election and I plan to reach out in the coming weeks to see if the clerks and registrars in those parishes would like some technical assistance from out office," reads a statement by La. Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

On the CCC itself, a FOX 8 crew reports staff have left the toll booths and are no longer collecting the $1 tolls.  Traffic is being waved through.

"The collection of tolls on the Crescent City Connection Bridge on US 90B has been suspended until further notice," reads a Twitter message from DOTD late Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration supported extending the tolls, and issued this statement in reaction Tuesday:

The tolls on the CCC are necessary to maintain this important infrastructure, which is critical to enabling our regional economy. We will continue to fight waste and abuse.  Our goal has been to ensure that there are available funds to maintain and light the bridge and ensure the overall safety of drivers.