We support smart tolls to sustain the operations and maintenance of New Orleans' regional Mississippi River crossings. The Crescent City Connection bridges and ferries are critical to our region’s health, economic vitality and mobility. If the tolls are not reauthorized, the impacts will be drastic and will range from:
• Deferred maintenance leading to more costly repairs;
• Dangerous reductions in policing leading to slow accident response time and traffic delays. Only two state troopers would be assigned to the bridge and only during peak hours versus 29 police today;
• Significant financial costs shifted to the cities of New Orleans and Gretna to provide local police to fill the gap of inadequate State Trooper coverage in addition to an annual $800,000 lighting and landscaping bill that the State will not pay;
• Privatized ferries with no guarantee of continued service putting into jeopardy our only direct regional pedestrian and bicycle river crossing;
• Increased traffic caused by reduced response times to accidents. Additionally DOTD will reduce Westbank Expressway lanes and close on-ramps to facilitate merging traffic onto the Crescent City Connection (the toll booths currently serve to merge twelve lanes of traffic to four); to
• Loss of revenue to the region – all excess toll funds (amounting to approximately $20 million) that would currently be used for regional bridge, ferry and roadway improvements would be surrendered to the State with no guarantee of reinvestment in the New Orleans area.
That’s why we are asking Louisiana State Senators and Representatives to champion reauthorization of the Crescent City Connection toll during the current legislative session.
To members of the Louisiana State Legislature:
I am writing to ask you to 1) author legislation in the form of an amendment to an existing bill to reauthorize the Crescent City Connection toll, and 2) to build a coalition of support for the bill among your fellow Legislators.
I support smart tolls to sustain the operations and maintenance of our critical, regional Mississippi River crossings. The Crescent City Connection twin-span bridge and ferries are critical to our region’s health, economic vitality and mobility.
PROVIDING DEDICATED REVENUE SOURCES FOR CRITICAL TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE IS A NATIONAL BEST PRACTICE. The Crescent City Connection is the most heavily traveled bridge on the lower Mississippi River and is critically important to our region’s success. Bridges are a unique form of transportation infrastructure that require careful and frequent monitoring, quick response to structural deficiencies, significant and continual maintenance, and operational capacity that includes quick response time to accidents – all of which require large amounts of funding that can best be provided through a dedicated revenue source like a toll.
THE STATE DOES NOT HAVE THE FUNDING NEEDED TO OPERATE AND MAINTAIN THE BRIDGE. In 2009, there was a $14 billion project backlog for critical transportation projects seeking funding through the State’s Transportation Trust Fund – the same pot of money the State suggests they will use to operate and maintain the Crescent City Connection. The State is already failing to adequately care for our bridge and road infrastructure - in their most recent annual report, the Louisiana Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our bridges and roads failing grades and recommended instituting new tolls to care for our ailing infrastructure.
DANGEROUS REDUCTIONS IN POLICING WOULD LEAD TO INADEQUATE RESPONSE TIMES. The State will only provide two State troopers to patrol the Crescent City Connection – and only during peak traffic hours. Currently, there are 29 Crescent City Connection police officers that offer around the clock patrolling. In March, there were 142 accidents on the bridge. In February – that number was even higher at 184. The impacts of this drastic reduction will cause significant traffic delays - for every one minute an accident remains in place traffic backs-up four minutes. So a five-minute delay in clearing an accident could result in 20 minute delays.
PREVIOUSLY COLLECTED TOLL REVENUES WOULD BE TAKEN AWAY FROM OUR REGION. All excess toll funds (amounting to approximately $20 million) that are currently dedicated for use on the Crescent City Connection, ferries, and Westbank Expressway and surrounding roadway improvements will be surrendered to the State with no guarantee of reinvestment in the New Orleans area.
OPERATIONAL COSTS WOULD GET SHIFTED TO NEW ORLEANS AND GRETNA. The State would shift close to $1,000,000.00 in annual lighting and landscaping costs the cities New Orleans and Gretna – two cash strapped cities that don’t have adequate funds to properly maintain their existing streetlights.
TRAFFIC WOULD INCREASE. The State has indicated that they will either reduce the number of Westbank Expressway lanes, close on-ramps or some combination of the two to facilitate merging traffic onto the Crescent City Connection. The tollbooths currently serve to merge twelve lanes of traffic to four. These reductions in capacity will worsen traffic on the Crescent City Connection.
THE FERRIES – OUR ONLY DIRECT BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN RIVER CONNECTION – WOULD BE PUT INTO JEOPARDY. The tolls cross-subsidize key river connections for ferry riders. Privatization has been discussed, but there are significant setbacks to this approach including that only the Chalmette ferry would include a mandate for continued operation. There are no guarantees that the ferries would continue to operate at their existing frequencies or even at all should a private business venture go belly up.
Instead of abolishing the dedicated funding source, I am asking you to 1) author legislation in the form of an amendment to an existing bill to reauthorize the Crescent City Connection toll, and 2) to build a coalition of support for the bill among your fellow Legislators.
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