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Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS - Safety on the Causeway Bridge has taken center stage after a series of accidents where vehicles went into the water.

At a meeting Wednesday, the public got a chance to sound off on the new railing systems that are being considered for the aging bridge.

It is considered one of the safest bridges out there. Even so, in last 20 years, 12 vehicles have gone over the railing and plunged into the water.

However, officials say even one is too many.

'Unfortunately what has happened with the Causeway is it's a 20th century design that is functioning in a 21st century environment,' said Carlton Dufrechou with the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission.

Dufrechou said the existing railing on the southbound side of the Causeway was only meant to be a hand rail, not a barrier.

That is why the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission wants to replace the railing altogether.

Last month the Texas A and M Transportation Institute began testing new railing designs. They have narrowed it down to two possible options - a one-tier or two-tier railing.

Both of which, experts say, would be a massive improvement to what is currently in place.

'I don't know why they wouldn't want to go higher if they can. I would prefer the higher option,' said Northshore resident Debbie Wadsworth. 'I will leave that up to the experts. I just want to be safe crossing the bridge.'

While commuters and Northshore residents support improving safety, the big concern is who will pay for the $50 million project.

Officials said Wednesday that they are working to secure grants and other funding. However, they say raising tolls is an option they are also considering.

'Put it up. It's a good safety measure,' said Jason Cottone. 'But find new, innovative ways to pay for it instead of just raising the tolls, that's easy.'

While some do not like the idea of raising tolls, several more are open to it.

'If it's my life or my family's life or my grandchild's life, absolutely. I would gladly pay an extra dollar to cross the bridge,' says Wadsworth.

Officials said $16 million of the $21 million budget comes from tolls, which has only increased once since the bridge first opened in 1956.

Wednesday's discussion also included whether to add segmented shoulders between the crossovers, doing that though, will cost an additional $60 million.

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