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JP Council talks CCC lights, upcoming election

New Orleans, La. — The Jefferson Parish Council got an update on the Crescent City Connection Bridge Wednesday and also called on state lawmakers to block a May 4 election to reconsider whether tolls should be renewed for the span.

Last fall voters narrowly approved retaining the tolls. But the tolls were recently suspended on the bridge after a Baton Rouge judge invalidated the results of the November 2012 referendum on renewing the tolls for another 20 years.

"We continue to monitor the traffic going through the plaza," said Rhett Desselle, assistant secretary for the State Department of Transportation and Development.

Council members are anxious about what will happen to the bridge without the $22 million in toll revenues generated annually.

"When the transition funds run out, what lighting will DOTD be paying for?" asked Council Chairman Chris Roberts.

"Well, our current policy is we don't pay for any roadway lighting, we don't pay for any decorative lighting and we don't pay for any landscape," answered Desselle.

"I think it's the responsibility of DOTD or the transportation fund to pay for all this long term because the state put this in," Councilman Ricky Templet said of the lighting and landscaping.

The Regional Planning Commission, which has oversight of the toll revenues, plans to use some of the $31 million in so-called "transition funds" left over at the end of 2012 to pay for lights on the roadway and under the span, but not the ornamental lighting on top of the bridge.  Desselle told the council that keeping those lights operating costs between $60,000 and $65,000 a year.

Now, those lights could go dark as early as Friday.

"We'll probably be turning them off pretty quickly because, again my operating budget is short," Desselle said to news reporters.

Some citizens said losing lights on the bridge should never become reality.

 "So we should look into Entergy to see if Entergy would absorb that...You can't have a bridge in a city… without lights," said Al Leone, a Jefferson Parish resident and businessman.

Desselle assured Jefferson Parish council members that the bridge will be adequately maintained and remain safe for the thousands of motorists who cross it daily.

"The bridge will still be inspected. We'll continue to make repairs, nothing's going to fall into disrepair," just some of the mowing, sweeping type stuff may not be done at the same level as it was before," he said.

The RPC plans to dip into transition funds to pay for additional grass mowing and trash collection.

Council members also went on record asking state lawmakers to cancel the May 4 election on the tolls.

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