JEFFERSON, La. – The $1.2 billion widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans was completed today approximately four months ahead of schedule and under budget. Expansion of the 1930s era bridge began in April 2006 shortly after Hurricane Katrina and is the largest transportation construction project in the history of Louisiana.
"Today, we celebrate the rebirth of a great bridge, which symbolizes the continued rebirth of this great city," said Louisiana Secretary of Transportation and Development Sherri H. LeBas. "We are so proud to deliver these amazing infrastructure improvements earlier than promised and under budget."
When the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1935, two months after the assassination of the governor for which it is named, it was the longest railroad bridge in the world. The two narrow highway lanes in each direction, however, made it notorious with drivers, some of whom refused to cross the bridge.
The widening project expanded the bridge to three lanes in each direction with shoulders. The driving surfaces more than doubled from 18 feet wide to 43 feet wide.
"This engineering marvel will be a tremendous asset to our area, providing safe travel and great opportunity for economic development," said Sen. John Alario whose district includes the bridge.
It also remains a vital rail facility for moving people and freight.
"The importance of the bridge cannot be overstated," said New Orleans Public Belt Railroad General Manager Jeffrey D. Davis. "In one year’s time, a total of 393,544 railcars traveled across the bridge. Included in that number were 374,597 freight cars, 16,498 freight locomotives, 1,891 passenger cars and 558 passenger locomotives."
The completion and rededication of the bridge was celebrated in true New Orleans style with a "second line" jazz band leading members of the public up on to the bridge for the cutting of a commemorative ribbon. A 5K race called "The Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run" kicked-off the celebration and gave participants the opportunity to run or walk across the bridge prior to the ceremony.
"It was appropriate to have a celebration worthy of the innovative nature of this bridge widening project," said Louisiana TIMED Program Director Stephen Spohrer who oversaw construction on the bridge. "For example, we lifted three steel truss spans into place from barges on the river. These spans were longer than two football fields. Each was heavier than twelve locomotives. This process is now being used on other bridge projects in the U.S."
The completed bridge will be able to carry more than twice the amount of traffic as it could prior to the widening. Before the project, the bridge carried about 50,000 vehicles per day. The new bridge will be able to support over 100,000 vehicles per day. The increased capacity will make it a greatly improved evacuation route in emergency situations like hurricanes and flooding.
Safety for drivers has also improved through lanes that are each two feet wider; the presence of eight-foot outside and two-foot inside shoulders where there were no shoulders before; and new over pass ramps on each side of the river that allow drivers to "fly over" intersections rather than driving through them. The additional traffic brought to the area by the improved bridge has also spurred a boom in business and job creation on both the east and west banks of the river.
"My late father and mother and I (along with my Aunt Ollie) traveled across the newly opened Huey P Long bridge when it opened in 1935 after three years of planning in our old black Chevrolet," said Mark "Doc" Parker, MD, who submitted his story to the bridge widening team. "Like new fine wine in splendid old bottles, the ‘Huey P’ now lives for generations more to come. Congratulations! Thank you for doing a magnificent job."
The $1.2 billion Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project is one of 16 projects in the $4.6 billion Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED) Program, managed by Louisiana TIMED Managers (LTM), a joint venture of GEC Inc., Parsons-Brinckerhoff Inc., and THE LPA GROUP INCORPORATED. It is the single largest transportation program in Louisiana history and is designed to enhance economic development and improve evacuation routes and safety through an investment in infrastructure.
The program is funded by a dedicated $0.04 per gallon gasoline and motor fuels tax. It was created by Act 16 of the 1989 Louisiana Legislature and was approved by a vote of the people. Projects include widening 536 miles of state highways, new construction or improvements to three major bridges and the improvements to both the Port of New Orleans and the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is committed to delivering transportation and public works systems that enhance the quality of life. In addition to more than 16,600 miles of roadway, including over 890 miles of interstate, DOTD supports the development of the state’s aviation, marine and rail infrastructures. Through this work, we are able to facilitate economic development, create job opportunities, improve vital evacuation routes, and make critical freight corridors safer and more efficient.
For more information, please visit www.dotd.la.gov, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (225) 379-1232 or 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683). Business hours are 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Motorists can access up-to-date travel information by dialing 511 or by visiting www.511la.org. Out-of state travelers can call 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).