BGR Analyzes Future of the Crescent City Connection

• Bureau of Governmental Research

Overview

Currently, tolls on the Crescent City Connection (CCC) pay for much more than bridge operations and maintenance. They also provide the majority of funding for the three ferry lines and a special police force dedicated to the bridge. In addition, the CCC Division uses toll funds to perform beautification services along the entire Westbank Expressway and on some roadways beneath the bridge. Any toll revenue in excess of that required for the division’s bridge and ferry departments goes toward a list of capital projects determined by the State Legislature.

Key Findings

There are compelling reasons to allow the bridge tolls to expire:
•The debt incurred to complete the second bridge will be repaid in November 2012. Once this happens, the main reason for imposing the tolls in the first place will disappear.
• Tolls are supposed to be user fees. User fees should be used only to fund the service for which they are imposed; the revenue generated by the fee should not exceed the cost of providing the service. This is not the case with the bridge tolls.
• The cost of collecting the tolls is disproportionate to the revenue generated for the bridge.
• Without the expense of toll collection, ferry subsidization and unrelated projects, there is no need for tolls. Bridge expenses are manageable from other sources.
• It is unfair for the state to charge tolls on the CCC bridge while covering the expenses of the other Mississippi River bridges out of state and federal funds.

Recommendations

On Tolls
•The Legislature should allow tolls to expire at the end of 2012.

On Paying Bridge-Related Costs
•The DOTD should cover basic operating and maintenance costs for the CCC out of the TTF.
•The DOTD should commit reserves that accumulate prior to the elimination of tolls to capital improvements on the bridge.
•The DOTD should take the necessary steps to continue the dedication of State Highway Fund No. 2 to the CCC and apply the revenue to its capital needs. The DOTD should include any
unmet needs in its prioritization process for statewide capital projects and, where appropriate, meet them out of the TTF.

On Ferry-Related Costs
•The DOTD should cover ferry costs out of the TTF.
•In anticipation of that change, the DOTD should evaluate increases in ferry fares or cuts in ferry service on a system-wide basis. It should set priorities based on factors such as vehicle and pedestrian ridership, cost per rider, and access to other means of crossing the river.

On Overall Funding
• If the DOTD requires additional funding to properly fund the Mississippi River bridges and ferries, the Legislature should increase state transportation taxes.