BATON ROUGE – Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today announced that progress on the repair of the I-10 “twin span” is right on schedule, and two-way traffic will be restored between Slidell and New Orleans by October 31.
Gov. Blanco also announced that all four lanes of the storm-battered twin spans should be open by mid-January.
Gov. Blanco called the project “symbolic of the recovery efforts that are under way.”
“I’m very pleased that we’re on schedule – even a little ahead of schedule,” she added.
DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry said the agency intends to build a six-lane, high-rise replacement bridge starting in spring 2006.
Speaking in Slidell at the north-shore end of the bridge, Gov. Blanco and Secretary Bradberry briefed news media today on the speedy repairs.
The 5.4-mile-long twin bridges, built in 1963, link Slidell to New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. Each span was constructed with 433, 65-foot concrete segments. The storm surge of Hurricane Katrina knocked a total of 435 segments out of alignment, with 64 of them so badly damaged they had to be discarded, according to Bradberry.
Within 12 days of Katrina’s landfall, the state had used the “fast-track” method to complete inspections; prepare bid documents for a three-phase project, including all permits; and obtain three bids. The same day bids were opened, Sept. 9, DOTD accepted the low bid of Boh Bros. – a Louisiana company – of $30.9 million, a bid $20 million below the project’s estimated costs. Work began on a 24-seven schedule on Sept. 12.
The entire repair project is being financed 100 percent by the Federal Highway Administration.
Phase 1 of repairs calls for establishing two-way traffic on the eastbound span within 45 days by re-aligning intact span segments and taking segments from the westbound bridge to complete the eastbound bridge.
A four-day delay prompted by Hurricane Rita resulted in an extension to Oct. 31. Boh Bros.’s contract includes an incentive of $75,000 per day (with a maximum of 15 days) for each day the company beats the Phase 1 deadline. It also includes a $75,000 penalty for each day the project is delayed (no maximum).
Secretary Bradberry said the additional $1.1 million incentive is “one that DOTD would be happy to pay on behalf of area residents to get traffic moving sooner.”
During Phase 2, which is being done concurrently with Phase 1, the remaining undamaged spans are being replaced on one end of the westbound span. The rest of the bridge will be completed using temporary bridge panels. The initial contract called for use of pontoons to hold one lane only; however, a contract change approved Tuesday will allow two lanes on the westbound side as well.
When both phases are complete, four lanes of traffic will be able to cross Lake Pontchartain. Phase 3 involves a maintenance contract for the temporary panels being used on the westbound side.