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For whom the bridge tolls 

Leges look for new revenue for CCC maintenance

  With prospects unlikely for renewing tolls on the Crescent City Connection (CCC) in the May 4 revote, regional lawmakers are focused on how to fund the bridge after a $5 million transition account is emptied. A judge threw out the results of the original November 2012 election and ordered the new election after West Bank residents challenged the narrow margin of the 2012 election.

  Rep. Christopher J. Leopold, R-Belle Chasse, whose district includes part of Algiers, said he is filing two bills that bridge partisans on both sides can support. "Everybody I talk to in New Orleans and Jefferson (Parish) are on board," Leopold said.

  One of his bills would require the Department of Transportation and Development to provide greater priority to "highly traveled bridges" such as the CCC, Leopold said. It is the policy equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, as DOTD would retain spending discretion, and the revenue stream to pay for the bridges remains unspecified in that measure. However, up to $5.5 million annually could be generated by his other bill, Leopold said. That bill would dedicate revenues from Highway Trust Fund No. 2 to the CCC. The fund already pays for a variety of needs on the bridge, from toll collections to maintenance. Leopold said both bills will be filed soon.

  On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, has House Bill 235 to increase the cigarette tax by 36 cents per pack, with 75 percent going to a health care fund and the rest to a new commission to oversee maintenance of the CCC. — Jeremy Alford

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