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Bridge Reopening Vital Step to Recovery

Mon January 16, 2006 - Southeast Edition
CEG



The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) reopened the two westbound lanes of the I-10 “twin spans” Jan. 6, eight days ahead of schedule.

A Jan. 5 ribbon-cutting ceremony marked another step toward recovery from the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Speakers included Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Acting Federal Highway Administrator J. Richard Capka, DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry and Boh Bros. President Robert S. Boh, the contractor of the work.

“This bridge is a metaphor for Louisiana; it symbolizes our present and our future,” said the governor before its reopening. “It was broken, but will return to functioning at capacity. And when the new ’twin spans’ are built, capacity will grow by one-third with the addition of third lanes.

“Louisiana, too, not only will recover from the devastation we’ve experienced — we will grow bigger and better.”

Bradberry said, “The speedy completion of the twin-span repairs indicates DOTD’s commitment and desire to restore Louisiana’s infrastructure as soon as possible. This milestone puts Louisiana residents one step closer to resuming their normal lives.”

The eastbound left lane closed for the first three days after the westbound lanes reopened to allow for re-striping of the bridge back to one-way configuration.

Repairs started on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week schedule Sept. 12, two weeks after a storm surge during Katrina knocked 435 segments weighing 309 tons (395 t) out of alignment. Sixty-four segments were damaged so badly they had to be discarded.

Phase 1 of the project returned the eastbound lanes to use in October. Concrete spans from the westbound side were moved to the eastbound lanes to complete and repair gaps.

In Phase 2, which was being performed concurrently, the remaining concrete spans were realigned and prefabricated bridge sections of hot-dipped galvanized steel were inserted into two sections on the westbound side to form two lanes at 24 ft. (7.3 m) wide. The entire structure is supported on the twin span’s pre-existing pier foundations, which were fully inspected and in good working order.

Phase 3 involves an annually renewable contract to maintain, repair or replace the temporary bridge panels. Bids will be opened this spring on a new, three-lane bridge with higher elevation to elude similar storm surges.

The cost of all three phases will total approximately $35 million, up $4.1 million after a change order to have two westbound lanes instead of one in the repair contract.

Bradberry noted that DOTD has a special traffic management plan in place for the repaired bridge, including a lower speed limit of 50 mph on the westbound side and 60 mph on the eastbound side, strategically placed variable message signs that can be programmed remotely to warn of fog and/or accidents and the operation of two Motorist Assistance Patrol vans from U.S. 11 to Oak Harbor/Eden Isle 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The existing construction crossover locations on the north and south shores and the midspan emergency crossover will be barricaded with water-filled, movable barriers to allow for access in case of major incidents or the need to divert traffic on a long-term basis.

An average of nearly 55,000 vehicles a day traveled the 5.4 mi. (8.7 km) across Lake Pontchartrain on the twin-spans prior to the storm. The daily traffic count on the two-lane repaired bridge averaged 24,420 a day as of Nov. 30. The excess traffic apparently used the U.S. 11 bridge, which had an average daily traffic count of 6,700 pre-Katrina and 14,035 as of Nov. 30.