Louisiana DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry announced that one of the Hurricane Katrina-damaged twin spans that crosses Lake Pontchartrain on I-10 between New Orleans and Slidell will open to two-way traffic on Friday afternoon, well ahead of schedule.
“Governor (Kathleen) Blanco directed that we restore traffic on this vital route as quickly as possible,” Bradberry said. “We are happy to get traffic moving again on I-10 17 days early at a substantial savings to the state.”
Storm surge from Katrina caused extensive damage to both spans of the bridge, knocking 435 concrete segments out of alignment.
All interstate traffic between Slidell and New Orleans has been routed onto the U.S. 11 bridge since Katrina struck on Aug. 29, causing long traffic delays. Reopening one span of the I-10 bridge “should give everyone a little breathing room,” Bradberry said. “Even though it’s just two-way traffic for now, we hope opening this span will help drivers move a little faster.”
To accommodate two-way traffic on the I-10 bridge, a traffic crossover has been constructed to allow I-10 westbound traffic in Slidell to move onto one lane of the repaired span. Another crossover on the New Orleans side of the bridge will allow those westbound drivers to transfer back to the regular westbound interstate lanes.
Boh Brothers, a Louisiana contractor, was awarded the contract on Sept. 9 with a low bid of $30.9 million. Contract specifications call for Boh Brothers to receive a bonus of $75,000 for each day traffic flow is established ahead of the 45-day deadline, with a 15-day cap. Even with the bonus included, the state will realize substantial savings from the estimated project cost of $53 million.
Phase II of the contract includes establishing traffic on the westbound span of the bridge by mid-January. Because the eastbound span was repaired with several undamaged concrete segments from the westbound span, Boh Brothers will use temporary bridge panels to complete the traffic lanes.
Once the westbound span is reopened, interstate traffic will be restored to its pre-Katrina configuration.
DOTD plans to take bids in spring 2006 for a replacement bridge. That structure will be an elevated, six-lane twin span bridge that should take approximately three years to build.