Causeway toll increase draws fierce opposition

Causeway toll hike draws fierce opposition

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Scenes like Monday's overboard accident are what the Causeway Commission says it want stop from happening.

To pay for higher and stronger barriers and expanded lanes, the commission wants to increase the price of toll tags from $2 to $3 and cash toll prices from $3 to $5.

"Most people like to have safety improvements on all roadways, and that's great, and we fundamentally agree with that concept. We don't fundamentally agree with the funding of that project," said Rick Franzo with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

Franzo's group is fighting the toll increase at all costs.

On Tuesday the group gave details about how $2 million of the $16 million in toll money is spent on projects that have nothing to do with the Causeway.

"Money goes to Orleans Parish," Franzo said. "It goes to taking care of the Huey P. Long Bridge, and it goes to seven of the Lake Pontchartrain basin parishes."

The group says $1.6 million a year goes to fund the Huey P., $25,000 go to the New Orleans Police Department and another $25,000 goes to the New Orleans Recreation Department.

Siphoning money away from the Causeway bridge fuels the fire of residents and the Mandeville mayor, who wants the tolls to remain the same.

"The concern with the increase is that a lot of the money going to other parishes that St. Tammany residents are paying, and I think that some of that needs to be resolved before we start saying let's increase the payments more on St. Tammany commuters," said Mayor Donald Villere.

"It's a very difficult fight. It's a more difficult fight than we had," said Patrick Hand, who led the charge to stop the tolls on the Crescent City Connection.

Hand said North Shore residents should not give up, even if the toll increase is passed.

"You have money that's been collected and tolls that's being used in other places other than the Causeway that make this a tax and not a toll," Hand said. "Nobody wants to call it a tax when it is actually a tax."

Commissioners will vote on the possible increase Wednesday.

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