NEW ORLEANS -- The Crescent City Connection Bridge will light up the night skyline of New Orleans once again.
They went dark March 15, after a judge suspended the bridge tolls and ordered a new election to decide whether the tolls should be extended another 20 years.
Tuesday, the Regional Planning Commission approved a resolution by Jefferson Parish President John Young to accept an offer from the Young Leadership Council to pay for the operation of the lights for the next three months. After that, leftover toll money would pay to keep them lit for the next year.
But the hope is state lawmakers will find a permanent source of funding for the lights.
"Shame on us if we don't light that bridge now and look for a more permanent solution," said Young. "Give us time to work with DOTD."
There is also a question as to whether the Department of Transportation and Development is legally obligated to pay for the lights as part of the original agreement when the YLC donated the lights to the state in 1989.
DOTD says that agreement no longer applies since the decorative lights were replaced after Hurricane Katrina in 2006.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu sent a letter to the RPC opposing the resolution.
"I am deeply concerned that the state has not provided our region with an adequate plan to permanently fund basic services on the bridge, Landrieu wrote. "Without a permanent solution, this commission will be back here next year with a depleted transitional fund, facing the same problem."
New Orleans Council At-Large Jackie Clarkson also opposed the resolution.
"Let the people be mad," she said. "We will get this passed. It's like using one-time money for an ongoing expense and it's not good government."
"This will give us time to change the law that needs to be changed to keep the state's and DOTD's feet to the fire and make them live up to obligation we feel they have," Young responded.
It costs about $60,000 year to operate the lights on the CCC, $15,000 of which pays the electric bill.
"We still believe this is a state obligation in the long run," said YLC President Richard Pavlick. "Our goal is to get them turned on as quickly as possible and we're glad to see that happened."
The RPC also committed leftover toll money to sweeping the bridge and expressway approaches on both banks of the Mississippi River.
The board passed a second resolution urging lawmakers to search for a permanent source of funding for the lights if the toll referendum fails May 4.