Officials overseeing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway are eyeing a toll increase for commuters.

The Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission heard Wednesday a plan to increase the toll by $1 for drivers with toll tags and $2 for drivers without.

Currently, it costs $2 to cross from the North Shore to the south shore if the driver has a toll tag. It costs $3 without a tag.

Under the proposed increase, drivers with toll tags would pay $3, and drivers without would pay $5 per round trip. Northbound trips from the south shore are free.

Carlton Dufrechou, general manager, said the toll hike could pay for $100 million to $110 million worth of improvements on the bridge. The commission has been focused on ways to improve rails and add additional stopping areas.

He said the state does not have the ability to help with costs, and t here have been three failed attempts to obtain federal grants.

"Our focus is getting our commuters back and forth safely and timely," he said. "That's why we're pursuing this." The increase would be tied to the consumer price index, so every seven years there would be an adjustment, under the proposal. The improvement would be financed through 30-year bonds.

About two-thirds of bridge users have a toll tags. The round trip, $2 toll for tags today is the same round trip cash toll from 1956, he said.

A vote on the toll hike is not expected until August.

Dufrechou said the initiative was a culmination of two years of efforts "trying to get the Causeway into the 21st century as far as safety."

"We've got a great bridge, structurally it's very sound," he said. "The maintenance has been continuous for the past 60 years."

But traffic is six times what it was in 1969 when the northbound span was completed. He said the other challenge is the type of vehicles on the bridge. Now, one of every two vehicles is a SUV or personal pickup.

 

Source: "Toll hik for Causeway commuters could be on the way" Lance Traweek (lance.traweek@nopg.com)