They break it, Louisiana fixes it

    After a crane-mounted barge slammed into the Sunshine Bridge on Oct. 12, shutting down the Mississippi River span for nearly two months, nearby communities that took an economic hit from the closure quickly learned two frustrating facts: 1) they stood little chance of legally recouping damages for their financial losses, and 2) they, and every other taxpayer in the state, would essentially be on the hook for the cost of repairs, estimated to be some $5 million.

    In part, Business Report details, that’s because in the days immediately after the accident, attorneys for the barge company involved, Marquette Transportation, raced to court, filing documents seeking to limit Marquette’s liability to $1.5 million, roughly the cost of the vessel. As for the remaining $3.5 million tab? Well, the expectation is for the state to bear that cost.

    As it turns out, this isn’t so unusual—though it is an extreme example.

    Accidents that damage state infrastructure happen “all the time,” says Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson, and oftentimes the company or individual responsible does not repay the full cost of repairs.

    A sampling of DOTD’s past legal cases with Marquette and other companies, obtained by Business Report, prove Wilson right, though it appears none are as egregious as the Sunshine Bridge incident. Moreover, some claims do get paid back in full, or at least close to it.

    Read the full story and see a graphic that breaks down the rate at which the state gets repaid after shelling out for repairs.

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