In The News › Group to file lawsuit challenging Crescent City Connection tolls as a ‘tax in disguise’

Group to file lawsuit challenging Crescent City Connection tolls as a ‘tax in disguise’

June 7, 2012
By Paul Rioux, The Times-Picayune

A group that opposes renewing Crescent City Connection tolls said it plans to file a class-action lawsuit alleging the tolls are not a legitimate user fee but rather “a discriminatory and unconstitutional tax in disguise.” Michael Teachworth, director of, said the suit will be filed in the coming days and will seek an injunction to immediately halt toll collections.

The tolls are set to expire Dec. 31, but the Legislature passed a bill setting a Nov. 6 election for voters in Jefferson, Orleans and Plaquemines parishes to decide whether to renew them.

Teachworth, who cast the dissenting vote in a Legislature-created task force’s 7-1 recommendation to renew the tolls, disclosed the planned lawsuit in an e-mail urging Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the bill.

Teachworth said the toll, $1 for motorists paying cash and 40 cents for those with toll tags, constitutes a tax because most of the $21 million generated each year is used to pay for services unrelated to operating the bridge, including three Mississippi River ferries that receive $9 million a year in bridge tolls. The bill setting the toll referendum would prohibit toll revenue from subsidizing the ferries, which would be privatized.

“We believe these tolls do not meet the definition of a user fee — as only 19 cents of every toll dollar collected is actually spent on the bridge,” Teachworth wrote, citing a figure from a report by the Bureau of Governmental Research, which recommended letting the tolls expire.

“The rest of the toll money collected is used to pay for the same services that are provided by the state of Louisiana to other citizens who are not forced to pay tolls,” Teachworth wrote. “These services include police patrols on bridges, ferry services, funding of DOTD operations, and bridge maintenance and inspections.”

Toll supporters, including numerous business and civic groups, have said bridge upkeep would be curtailed if the cash-strapped DOTD took over the span. They argue the iconic bridge is a vital economic lifeline and symbol for the region that must be properly maintained.

But many commuters have said the state should maintain and operate the bridge with gas tax revenue as it does for all the other Mississippi River spans.

“We want a court to decide if the tolls are fair, not politicians,” Teachworth said in an interview. “If we lose, we’re going to shut up and pay the tolls. If we win, West Bank residents will finally be treated fairly like the rest of the state.”

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