METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - The Causeway Commission has voted in favor of seeking $100 million in bond financing for bridge improvements to be financed through higher tolls. That toll increase will go into place in a matter of days.
Causeway officials say they are looking for engineering pioneers to design new safety pullout bays of at least 500 feet, which they insist will make the bridge safer.
The two-year planning process to raise tolls to pay for higher guardrails and 12 safety pullout bays - six on each span - moved a step closer to reality today.
The Commission voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $100 million, 30-year bond financing plan that would fund a project paid for by drivers who will be asked to pay increases of $1 for toll tag users, and $2 for those who pay cash.
"Saturday a week, May 6th, we start at 4 a.m.," said Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou.
Causeway managers say there will be extra staff on hand when the tolls are raised.
"The system is already geared for it. We had test runs...we will have extra folks out in case of flukes," said Dufrechou.
Causeway officials now prepare for the next step in this process, which is approval before the State Bond Commission. At this point they don't seem too concerned about a bill that some feared might bottle things up.
A state representative is seeking passage of a bill that would require anyone seeking bonds of more than $5 million to provide an objective analysis, which Causeway officials say they've done.
"It asks for certain things, we've done those items, it will cost $775,000 to package it," said Causeway Commissioner Shelby Lasalle.
The commission now looks for engineers with innovative ideas.
"It's all about trying to get out of the box, and the concepts that built this bridge in 20 months, we are looking for the most emergency stopping area for the least amount of cost, and the least impact to our commuters," said Dufrechou.
The new Causeway bond deal is expected to go to a vote of the bond commission within three months.
One person spoke out at Thursday's meeting, saying he was concerned about cars pulling out of safety bays, creating traffic hazards. Causeway officials say they envision a warning light system, which they believe will make that process safer.