Monday was a bad first day of the legislative session for a Covington representative.
A new State Capitol parking lot security system engaged as state Rep. Paul Hollis was exiting the lot in his Audi A8. And the result wasn’t pretty.
Two electronically controlled bollards shot up from the parking lot surface, causing major damage underneath the front of his car. Bollards are vertical metal barriers that stop the passage of vehicles into off-limits areas.
The accident broke his hand, caused tendon issues, injured his left elbow and caused a mild concussion, Hollis said after leaving the hospital late Monday. His Audi is probably totaled with the front axle likely broken, he said.
Hollis said he was exiting the parking lot because his assigned space had changed.
“I was just driving to the exit, just as I always do,” Hollis said. Apparently, the security bollards went up, crunching the underside of Hollis’ $70,000 car, causing the air bags to deploy. The windshield cracked.
“The only thing I saw was a bright, bright light,” he said.
Hollis, a Republican, took care to get the automobile towed, then went into the Capitol to hear the governor’s speech. When he started shaking hands, Hollis said he felt light-headed and a colleague took him to the hospital.
State Police is investigating the accident and looking “at every aspect of it,” State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton said.
Based on the preliminary report, “it looks like the bollards acted as they were supposed to,” Slaton said.
A delivery truck was exiting the Capitol grounds and the bollards were lowered manually by one of the guards to allow the truck to get out. As the delivery truck exited, it tripped the sensor for the bollards to go back up and reset, he said.
“Rep. Hollis appeared to be trying to piggyback the delivery truck and exit at the same time,” Slaton said. “It appears the bollards operated as they are designed to do.”
People who work at the State Capitol were taking bets last week on when the first accident would occur with all the new parking and traffic changes made as part of a $4.8 million security upgrade.
The changes were introduced with the legislative session’s start Monday and came as a rude awakening for many.
Heavy morning rain added to the confusion over the new security procedures around the State Capitol. The Legislature blocked much of the access with security bollards and routed traffic to new entrances in heavily guarded parking areas.
Rumors spread around Capitol hallways that Hollis was not the only person encountering problems with the bollards. But police could not confirm other accidents Monday afternoon.
At secured parking entry and exits, the bollards are used to prevent unauthorized vehicles. A traffic light is posted at each entry and exit spot, which turns red or green, telling the motorists when to go or stop. Motorists swipe a card that triggers the bollards to go down. After their car passes, the red light goes on and the bollards go back up until the next car in line is authorized to go through.
The state Division of Administration is awaiting a final State Police report to determine if there’s any state liability in the Hollis accident, said Meghan Parrish, division communications director.
Mark Ballard, of The Advocate Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report. Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.the advocate.com/politicsblog/.