Some bridge employees get pink slips after CCC toll suspension

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 6 at 7:21 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS - The far reaching effects of a state judge's decision to suspend the tolls on the Crescent City Connection are beginning to take hold.

Thirty-one temporary employees who were hired pending the outcome of the November toll referendum have been terminated.

The Department of Transportation and Development which runs the bridge is hoping to place many of its permanent employees in other state jobs.

"They're going to try and make sure that no one loses their job and try to find other positions for them whether it's in the Department of Transportation or another department," said Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans East. Badon is the vice-chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says he wants to keep all of the bridge police officers on the job, with or without the tolls.

"I don't see any reason why we would have to do anything differently," said Edmonson. "In fact, I'm going to fight to make sure we do exactly what we're doing. I think we owe it to the people who cross that bridge."

The first morning commute without the tolls left some commuters a bit confused and frustrated on Wednesday.

"My 10 or 15 minute commute took me 50 minutes this morning," said Danielle Burleigh from Marerro. "I think there is room for improvement."

Tuesday, Judge William Morvant from Baton Rouge suspended the tolls after nullifying the results of the November 6 election where voters extended the tolls on the CCC for another 20 years.

He ruled that about 100 voters casting provisional ballots in Jefferson Parish were not allowed to vote on the toll referendum.

He ordered a new election for May 4.

In the meantime, commuters want to know what happens to the money in their toll tag accounts. "What do they do with our funds," said Burleigh. "Do they just hold it in place until the votes go in on May 4."

"DOTD has told me if people want to come in and get their money back on a toll tag, they have that right," said Badon. "They are not going to collect any more toll tag, automatic debits on toll tags."

Toll supporters are concerned about low voter turnout expected for the special election in May as opposed to the 300,000 plus voters who turned out during the presidential election in November.

"It will go from 300,000 to 30,000," said D'Jaun Hernandez from the Bridging Progress group. "That's 10 percent of the voting populous, so ultimately, you're not going to be able to get the same amount of people to weigh in on this particular referendum."

The group is now considering legal options to appeal the judge's ruling.

"This ruling by this judge is precedent setting," said Hernandez. "I don't know that this has been done before particularly in the state of Louisiana."

Judge Morvant is expected to hold a conference with concerned parties on Friday to go over costs and the impact of his ruling.

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