In response to your recent editorial concerning the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel replacement project:
The citizens of Plaquemines Parish are upset with this project being targeted as the first and only tolled replacement bridge and the first public-private-partnership in Louisiana. This proposal has many unknown procedures and deadlines. This is a critical artery that’s used multiple times a day by residents.
Our protests are not too late as this proposal needs approval from the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee in order to be executed. This meeting will be scheduled shortly after the "re-negotiated" offer is made by the private contractor. There must be adequate time period for the local government to review and comment on the new proposal prior to this meeting. Only the secretary of Transportation and the governor can approve this project.
Tolling a small community that must cross a tolled bridge to cross a canal, dug by the federal government for marine traffic, for our most basic quality of life needs is unfair. The suggested alternate route is an unsafe, two-lane highway, with no full usable shoulder, and has an eight-foot drop off to ditches on both sides. Our local officials have passed ordinances and have written letters to the governor stating why the current proposal will devastate our small community. NOTOLLS.org has also written letters of disapproval.
Paying tolls should result in "time or economic" savings. This bridge replacement does neither. The bridge doesn't increase the routes out of the parish. It does not solve our current traffic issues in Belle Chasse. There is little convenience added to our residents.
There's a lack of transparency in this project. There's only one proposer (two others dropped out). The state has no leverage in re-negotiation of the private company's offer. The first offer was to cover a $70 million shortfall by paying over $700 million back over a 30-year tolling period. That’s just not good business sense. Having a private company assume all project risks is very expensive. The local and state officials have no vote, nor do the residents. We will never know the details in the comprehensive agreement between the proposer and the state.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill settlement of $690 million is currently distributed all over the state. Plaquemines Parish received no part of this money for this project. This is unfair because Plaquemines Parish was hardest hit by this tragedy. The Peter's Road extension has always been the region's highest priority. The Peters Road project will add another route in/out for the Parish. It will help resolve traffic issues in Belle Chasse. These are some of the reasons we formed our political action group called NOTOLLS.org against the project to replace the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel!
We have been told that the governor won’t approve of this project if the locals show that they don’t want the project. We’d love to have a beautiful, new bridge but we’re not willing to accept any toll unfairly taxed upon our parish.