Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez on Thursday, Sept. 8, joined Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the ribbon cutting of the I-10 Twin Span Bridges replacement, one of the largest public works projects in Louisiana history. Opening several months ahead of schedule, the $803 million Twin Span Bridges project marks a significant national milestone in the recovery of the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina.
“This Twin Span Bridges Project will relieve congestion, improve commercial access to the Port of New Orleans and provide a crucial evacuation route for city residents,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The completion of this project is a huge milestone for New Orleans and the city’s ongoing efforts to rebuild.”
Spanning more than five miles over Lake Pontchartrain, the new bridges are a critical part of the east-west link for New Orleans – particularly for the 8.6 million tons of commercial shipments traveling to and from the Port of New Orleans. Replacing the I-10 Twin Span Bridges has been a priority for FHWA since 2005 when Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.
“As the newest part of the New Orleans landscape, these bridges will ease congestion and allow area residents to spend more time doing things they enjoy as well as serve as an evacuation route,” Mendez says. “Together they are a masterpiece of American engineering and can help the region start a new chapter.”
Two additional lanes on the new bridges will help relieve local traffic congestion and improve safety by providing a more reliable evacuation route. At the crest, the new bridges are 30 feet high – 21 feet taller than their predecessors, making the pair of new bridges more resistant to storm surge.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development designed the new bridges to last 100 years, and the improved anchoring system will prevent bridge spans from “floating” off the structures as happened during Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. The new bridges’ design uses reinforced concrete walls to improve resistance to damage from barge collisions.
Though the new bridges do not rely on material from the earlier Twin Span Bridges, most of the original will be used as reefs to improve local marine habitats, as a coastal barrier in Lake Borgne and as a fishing pier in St. Tammany Parish.