Bridge tolls graphic

BATON ROUGE — Two toll bills that could play a factor in construction of new Interstate 10 bridges over the Calcasieu River at Lake Charles and over the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge received favorable nods here Monday from the House Transportation Committee. Both move to the full House for debate.

Legislation by Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, that creates a Calcasieu Parish Tolling Authority is scheduled for a Tuesday hearing by the same committee. House Bill 561 would create an authority of seven directors appointed by governing authorities of Calcasieu and Jeff Davis parishes, Lake Charles, Westlake and Sulphur and two selected by the Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation.

Newly elected Republican Rep. Ryan Bourriaque of Cameron is sponsor of House Bill 348, one of the bills heard Monday. It is his first measure to clear a committee. The bill authorizes an agreement for private-public partnerships to contain a provision allowing an authority like the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to assume limited liability for damages arising out of injuries or property damage to third parties.

Private-public partnerships are a means of providing road, bridge and other infrastructure services by government in partnership with the private sector.

Language in the Bourriaque legislation says the limited liability would apply for damages in the event the qualifying transportation facility is determined to be uninsurable for those damages.

The Chamber/Southwest Louisiana created an Interstate 10 Bridge Task Force that came up with a detailed action plan to construct a new bridge at Lake Charles. It recommended the use of a privatepublic partnership to get the job done and concluded tolls could be one of the ways to help finance construction.

Parishes in the Baton Rouge area are also trying to come up with a solution for financing a new bridge there.

Private-public partnerships often provide better solutions, faster project completions and a better return on investments. Government funds can also be redirected to other important projects.

H.B. 567 is by Rep. Ed Larvadain III, D-Alexandria. It expands the authorities that may collect tolls to private entities. It also extends that authority to all state-owned toll facilities and allows DOTD and the Louisiana Transportation Authority to delegate that authority to any private entity acting on their behalf.

The bill adds DOTD as an entity within which a person may have a toll-tag account or approve other means of paying a toll. DOTD or a private entity acting on its behalf could also impose, revise or adjust tolls, fees or charges from time to time. Toll tags and toll tag accounts would also be authorized and an administrative fee of $25 established to cover the cost of collecting a toll.

Enforcement of the tolls would provide that a photograph, microphotograph, videotape or other recorded image is admissible in a proceeding to collect a toll. DOTD would handle all of those things in consultation with the private entity.

Joshua Hollins, executive counsel for DOTD, explained his department’s involvement in the bills by Bourriaque and Larvadain.

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