Audit: Thousands of tolls unpaid on Hwy. 1 bridge
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The state hasn't sought to collect thousands of unpaid tolls for crossing a south Louisiana bridge on the way to Grand Isle that has been riddled with collection problems since it opened, according to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office.
An audit released Monday said nearly 300,000 images taken of license plates for people who apparently didn't pay the toll on La. Highway 1 in Leeville remained unbilled when the last fiscal year ended, June 30.
In a written response to the audit, the Department of Transportation and Development said nearly 200,000 of those violations won't ever be paid. DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas said the photos are unreadable or can't be matched to an owner through the available database.
About 11,000 of the violations were paid because they were matched to toll tag accounts, and the department was pursuing the remaining 68,000 toll violations for payment, LeBas wrote.
The improved bridge opened in 2009 and is a key route for trucks heading to and from the oilfield hub of Port Fourchon. Toll revenue — particularly from large trucks in the oil and gas industry — was supposed to repay the borrowing costs to build the bridge.
But toll collections have fallen well below expected income levels, and the state had to restructure its debt payments for the bridge to keep from defaulting on a federal loan used to finance construction.
LeBas said the transportation department has worked to improve its collections, and its collection rates are above 95 percent "and above the industry standards for this collection methodology."
The current toll rate for most cars is $3 roundtrip, while the largest trucks are charged $15. The rates increase every five years.
Online: The audit is available at: http://bit.ly/1clppsp
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Posted on Tue, November 26, 2013