Audit shows problems at La. Hwy. 1 bridge with collecting tolls

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 3 at 8:21 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- It's been three years since the state started collecting tolls on the Louisiana Hwy. 1 bridge. And according to a legislative audit released Monday, problems in collecting tolls on that bridge have persisted for about three years.

"Those who are responsible for making the system work did not do their jobs, and we're getting left holding the bag. That money that is not collected, someone has to pay for it. It's going to be the taxpayers of the state,” said state Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero.

Connick, a frequent critic of the bridge tolls, said he is not surprised that hundreds of thousands of dollars in tolls have been left on the table.

"Rules were bent, things were changed, things were overlooked,” Connick said. “And because of that, this is what we have. We have a system that doesn't work. And that's got to change."

According to the audit, $3.3 million in tolls were collected on that lower Jefferson Parish bridge in fiscal year 2012. But an untold amount has gone uncollected.

For about 300,000 drivers who didn't pay the $2.50 toll, the state hasn't lifted a finger to collect.

And even when the state did go after the freeloaders, it had no arrangements to collect from out-of-state drivers.

Then for drivers who purchased toll tags, those whose balance went to zero were never flagged for a violation.

This is not the first time that the state Department of Transportation has been criticized for failure to collect tolls. At the Crescent City Connection, toll problems have been traced back to the same contractors and engineers that are responsible for toll collection at the Louisiana Hwy. 1 Leeville bridge.

Previous audits have criticized the state for issuing a no-bid contract to consultants overseeing the toll systems. Then there was a messy lawsuit between the state and the primary technology contractor.

The state acknowledged most of the problems, saying corrections have been made and more are on the way.

 

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