Bill to regulate tolls on new Calcasieu River Bridge advances

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

By Steve Wilson | The Center Square

A measure that would place restrictions on what Louisiana could do with revenue raised from a planned $2.1 billion bridge in Lake Charles was passed this week by the House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.

Senate Bill 446 would provide restrictions on how the Department of Transportation and Development could use revenue or credits generated in connection with the Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge, which will be a toll bridge. The state will collect 15% of the toll revenue.

Email newsletter signup

A House floor vote is next for the legislation, which passed 9-0 and previously passed in the Senate.

If the bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, becomes law, the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation, Highways, and Public Works would have to approve the use of any revenues by the Transportation Department.

The bill allows three options for toll revenue. Reduction of toll amounts or the amount of time a toll would be levied (the present agreement is for 50 years of tolling) is possible, or the money can be used for transportation projects in the five-parish area of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron or Jefferson Davis.

A new public/private partnership deal that reduced some of the tolls was approved by lawmakers Jan. 30.

When asked about possibly modifying the tolling rates for trucks doing multiple, local runs, Transportation Secretary Joe Donahue said at Monday’s meeting that additional public funds would likely be required to offset the loss of toll revenue.

The existing bridge is 71 years old and is rated as the most traveled structurally deficient bridge in the Pelican State as compiled by the nonprofit American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The association says 86,600 vehicles per day cross the bridge.

There will be 25-cent toll with a vehicle size limit for local residents to all noncommercial vehicles in a five-parish area. Commercial trucks with a transponder will pay $8.25 while those without transponders would pay $12.36.