YLC: State has legal obligation to keep lights lit on CCC

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 14 at 12:07 PM

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

NEW ORLEANS -- There is a new push to keep the decorative lights lit on the Crescent City Connection by the civic group that raised the money to buy the lights in 1987.

The lights have become an iconic part of the New Orleans skyline at night.

The Young Leadership Council's former president, Chris Johnsen, said he was surprised to hear that all of a sudden the lights are going to be tuned off.

"We raised about a $500,000 and we raised it in increments of $1 and $5 to as much as $25,000," said Johnsen. "We raised it from the east bank, the West Bank."

Johnsen is now an attorney in Washington, DC. He says part of the agreement when the YLC gifted the lights to the state was that the lights would be operated and maintained into the future.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development says the lights may go dark on Friday after a judge suspended tolls on the bridge.

"The agreement that we reached was that we would raise the money privately, donate these beautiful lights to the state and that the state would maintain and pay for the operating costs of the lights in perpetuity," said Johnsen. "We expect the state to step up and live up to its responsibility and keep these lights on."

DOTD Assistant Secretary Rhett Desselle said that agreement was with the Mississippi River Bridge Authority, which was abolished by the legislature at the end of last year.

"MRBA no longer exists," said Desselle. "Their funding source was the tolls. The tolls have expired. There's restrictions on how we spend transportation trust funds and of course we have policies that follow the statutes and we're going to operate under those policies and statutes that currently exist."

The YLC's current president Richard Pavlic said his group is now hoping to raise the money to keep the CCC lights lit, until a permanent source of revenue is found.

"It's more than just decorative lighting," said Pavlic. "It's about a symbol. It's about economic development. It's about showing people that New Orleans is open and ready for business."

According to DOTD, it cost about $60,000 a year to operate and maintain the lights on the bridge, $15,000 of which goes to pay the electric bill.

 

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