NEW ORLEANS -- The November election will determine the fate of the Crescent City Connection tolls.
Residents from Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes were invited to a meeting hosted by the West Jefferson Civic Coalition in Marrero on Wednesday night. The purpose of the gathering was to talk about the pros and cons of the toll system which sunsets this December.
In two and a half months, drivers on the Crescent City Connection might not have to stop at toll booths anymore. The are scheduled to end on Dec. 31 -- that is unless voters decided to renew the toll system for the next 20 years.
“It seems to me we can toll all the bridges in the state of Louisiana or we can remove the tolls from the crescent city connection,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young.
Local and state lawmakers met to talk about the pros and cons of keeping the tolls in place at the West Jefferson Medical Center Auditorium. The money would help pay for bridge operations, maintenance, landscaping, grass cutting, bridge lighting, trash collection, police inspection and capital budgets.
Critics including state Rep. Pat Connick, who attended Wednesday’s informational meeting, continue to say that the authority overseeing the bridge continues to mismanage millions of dollars every year.
“$400 million over the last 15 years hasn’t been spent properly,” Connick said. “It’s been mismanaged. We saw recently that we spent $3 million from some cameras that don’t work. It’s gotta end. It’s just wasteful spending, after wasteful spending.
Drivers like Aleta O’Connor say the state should pay for the bridge’s upkeep.
“If things need to be taken care of that what the state is for. That’s why we pay taxes. I’ve been paying taxes since I was 16 years old,” said O’Connor, a Westwego resident.
But supporters of the tolls say with the state facing major cuts who will pay for the $800,000 bridge lighting bill. They say replacing the Crescent City Connection’s police force with state troopers would also be a strain on already burdened state budget.
“I’m very concerned that if we do lose the tolls and vote it out. The condition of the bridge, the maintenance, the lighting, etc. is going to deteriorate,” said Gentilly resident Joseph Hookfin.
Again, voters will have a final say on the tolls on Nov. 6, election day.