Tuesday night, the decorative lights were once again shining bright on the Crescent City Connection bridge. Earlier in the day, the Regional Planning Commission approved a plan and memorandum of understanding allowing the YLC to pay to keep the lights on for three months.
After the three-month period is over, the RPC says left over money from tolls will be used to keep the decorative lights on for at least another year.
But the group wants to find a way to permanently fund the use of the lights, and its members voted unanimously Monday to get the legislature to help.
Here’s what the RPC wants to do: Push lawmakers to pass a new law that will require the state to pay for the decorative lights. They say that’s the only way to get past an old law that is currently the subject of much debate surrounding responsibility for the lights.
“Repeal that act that happened in 1955 I believe and have the state maintain lighting on state rights of way throughout the state of Louisiana,” said commission member and Jefferson Parish President John Young.
But getting lawmakers from other parts of the state to agree to a new law might be difficult. They may not care if the bridge looks pretty, but they do care about the state’s checkbook.
Many members of the RPC thinks the lawmakers can be swayed to support the plan if its expanded to cover all bridges and state overpasses in the state.
But while the commission voted unanimously to urge the legislature to take action, not everyone on the commission thinks the lawmakers will agree.
“I have lighting on [La Highway] 434 and 1088 and Oak Harbor and things like that that we feel it would be a great thing for the state to take over. But they won’t,” said St Tammany Parish Councilman Steve Stefancik.
Here’s how the group may win over lawmakers on the fence. Many are going to stop referring to the lights as “decorative” and instead will call them “essential”. That way, any lawmaker who votes against the idea might be maligned as being against safety.
“Because it’s additional lighting that is neccessary especially to women crossing that bridge at night alone. More so now than ever,” said New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson.
Whatever the legislature decides to do, the work will have to begin quickly. Lawmakers are already pre-filing bills for a legislative session that begins in a couple of weeks.