Louisiana lawmaker wants to get rid of tolls

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:02 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - State Rep. Les Farnum, R-Sulphur, says there’s a portion of Louisiana’s law that has been taken advantage of when it comes to collecting tolls on existing interstate systems and he hopes his plan will correct it.

“I don’t know there’s a place that really exists in Louisiana at this point that should ever be tolled,” said Farnum.

Farnum said state law reads, “Thou shall not toll an existing free roadway, bridge, overpass, or any section of highway.” What he wants to change is where the law goes on to state, “unless you improve or expand the system.”

“Because clearly, the intent of state law was to not toll existing roadways or bridges, so we’re just gonna remove the exception,” added Farnum.

You already pay taxes for our roads and bridges, and some see tolls on those bridges and roadways as being double taxed.

“That’s their solution to solve the infrastructure problems is to double tax people. And that’s basically what we’re doing by putting toll systems in, we’re double taxing on our citizens of the state and that’s just fundamentally wrong to me,” explained Farnum.

He said almost the entire Louisiana Southwest delegation is behind the idea, meaning members from both parties are in agreement. One group pushing back, however, is BRAC. The folks there say the plan would dramatically harm the ability to provide funding for a new Mississippi River Bridge.

“When you take a look at our backlog of road projects and the current state of our transportation infrastructure, we just don’t think it’s in our best interest to limit any type of revenue-generating opportunities that will finance current and future infrastructure projects,” said Trey Godrey, senior vice president of policy for BRAC.

But Farnum argues his bill only addresses current interstate systems. The new bridge over the Mississippi River has not even begun construction.

“While that may not be impacted, what will end up happening is when you limit tolls across the state, then you limit the state’s revenue-generating ability to invest in projects everywhere,” added Godrey.

Farnum said doing away with the existing tolls would force the state to be more efficient in prioritizing what projects are most important and getting the money to them quicker.

BRAC sees it as an unnecessary way to cut off a steady flow of cash for the state.

This bill will be debated on Tuesday, April 5, at the Louisiana State Capitol in the House Committee on Transportation, Highways, and Public Works starting at 9:30 a.m.

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