In The News › Opinion: Voters should tank CCC tolls

Opinion: Voters should tank CCC tolls

CityBusiness Editorial
April 26, 2013

Voters in Jefferson, Orleans and Plaquemines parishes have another opportunity on May 4 to rid the region of a political canker, the continuation of tolls on the Crescent City Connection.

Proponents of the tolls point to fiscal and safety concerns should they be eliminated. Based on the creation of new governance for the bridge facility, we are to believe that future collections will be in better hands.

While there are certainly well meaning individuals involved on this side of the issue, politics is still prevalent in the proposed scenario involving bridge management, and there is little reason to believe there will be a great departure from a pattern of poorly aligned funding priorities and monetary bungling.

So given the choice of putting our faith in the unproven evil or removing the temptation entirely, we opt for the latter and encourage voters to strike down the tolls a week from Saturday.

A report from the Bureau of Governmental Research, stating its opposition to the toll renewal in the November election, noted that just 19 cents of every dollar collected in tolls goes toward bridge operations. The bulk of the money goes toward subsidizing ferries, other unrelated transportation projects and sustaining the collection of the tolls.

BGR research also shows the cost of toll collection is disproportionate to the revenue generated for bridge operations. If a business were run the same way, the owner would be spending more money on operating the cash register than on the product or service offered.
Clearly it’s not an equation that works in favor of toll-paying motorists, the inordinate share of which come from the West Bank.

The toll was originally put in place to pay for the construction of the Crescent City Connection. That objective has been reached, and any other purpose for the tolls amounts to issuing a bill for costs that weren’t defined when the toll structure was first created.

In addition, the money to maintain other bridges that cross the Mississippi River in Louisiana comes from state and federal funds. Toll proponents note those sources have been inadequate in some cases, but the remedy is not to create an exception for the New Orleans region that relieves the state and federal government of their responsibilities.

When motorists pay a tax on gasoline in Louisiana, the revenues are supposed to be allocated to the areas of greatest need. History shows this hasn’t always been the case.

That might bolster the argument of toll proponents, who feel the region cannot depend on general sources of revenue for Crescent City Connection upkeep.

But it’s the precise reason why the tolls should be removed, because there has been a failure on the local level to ensure the toll collections were spent on pertinent bridge projects.

Don’t be swayed by false arguments involving safety and crumbling infrastructure. The Crescent City Connection has managed to operate for decades without the money intended for operations, so there’s reason to believe it will survive once a mostly pointless toll is removed.

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