It’s Official: Governor Edwards Signs Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Bill Into Law
The 2022 Louisiana Legislative Session addressed many controversial issues that produced new laws. Bills addressing abortion rights, transgender athletes competing against females, and restrictions on mugshot usage highlighted a busy time period for lawmakers.
One bill that may not have have gotten quite the fanfare but will have an impact on the lives of drivers every day in Louisiana is a bill that will factor driving time into speeding tickets for violators traveling on the Interstate 10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Governor John Bel Edwards has now signed that bill - SB 435 - into law.
It's no secret that speeding has gotten incredibly bad on the bridge. On the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, the posted speed limit is 60 mph but many drivers just see that as a suggestion. Drivers are known for traveling at least 10, 20 miles per hour over the speed limit every day on what has become a dangerous stetch of the interstate between Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
Lafayette Senator Page Cortez has a different way of determining how to catch the violators.
When someone gets busted for speeding it is usually because of one of two instruments - a radar gun or a speed camera. Each item is programmed to capture how fast someone is traveling in miles per hour and the violating driver is given a ticket depending on how many miles per hour over the speed limit that person was traveling. Well, Senator Cortez still wants to use cameras but not necessarily to record the speed of the driver but the time it takes the driver to get across the bridge.
“If it took you 14 minutes (to cross the bridge), you were going 80-something miles per hour and you didn’t stop at any of the exits,” said Cortez in this Louisiana Radio Network article.
Cortez's bill would mean that drivers who cross the bridge in less than 18 minutes would receive a speeding ticket in the mail, basing the ticket on how fast it takes a vehicle to get from one end of the bridge to the other instead of the miles per hour the vehicle was traveling. The cameras would track vehicles to see whether they travel across the bridge in 18 minutes or less.
How much revenue would drivers lose if they are caught traveling across the bridge to quickly?
When the bill was first presented by Cortez in April, he wanted to raise first-time speeding fines to $875 with repeat offenders being hit with a $2,500 fine and up to 90 days of jail time. That was amended down to a fine of double the current fine for speeding on the bridge.
Currently, violators are fined $175 to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Where will the fine money go? According to the bill, a "special fund..referred to as the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Safety Fund" will be created. Also, "unexpended monies in the fund shall be divided equally between the parishes of Iberville and St. Martin and shall be remitted to entities or organizations within each parish in the same proportions as fines collected by the parishes when traffic violations are issued by a law enforcement officer. Here is an excerpt from the legislation:
There is hereby created in the state treasury a special fund to be 20 designated and hereafter referred to as the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Safety 21 Fund, hereinafter referred to as the "fund". 22 (2) Any monies collected as fines pursuant to R.S. 32:57(J), as a result of 23 traffic camera safety device data, shall be deposited into the fund. 24 (3) Subject to legislative appropriation, monies in the fund shall be used 25 first to fund the department's expenditures necessary to carry out the 26 provisions of this Section. Thereafter, at the conclusion of each fiscal year, any 27 unexpended monies in the fund shall be divided equally between the parishes 28 of Iberville and St. Martin and shall be remitted to entities or organizations 29 within each parish in the same proportions as fines collected by the parishes 30 when traffic violations are issued by a law enforcement officer. Page 3 of 4 Coding: Words which are struck through are deletions from existing law; words in boldface type and underscored are additions. SB NO. 435 ENROLLED 1 (4) All unexpended and unencumbered monies in the fund at the end of 2 the fiscal year shall remain in the fund.
The cameras will be installed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. They will consult with the Safety Corridor Advisory Group to figure out how many cameras to install, where they will be placed on the bridge, and whether they will run continuously or during certain hours.
Tickets will be mailed to violators.
As of this article, the date of implementation has not yet been set.
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