Louisiana State Police cracking down on speeders, overweight trucks
BATON ROUGE, La. – The temporary panels used to repair the westbound I-10 “twin-span” bridge are taking a pounding from speeders, especially overweight and speeding trucks, and Louisiana State Police and the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) are asking motorists to slow down.
In case a warning isn’t sufficient, state troopers and Weights and Standard officers assigned to the Louisiana State Police Transportation Environmental Safety Section (TESS) have stepped up traffic enforcement.
And if that doesn’t work, the next step will be to ban 18-wheelers from the repaired bridge, DOTD warned.
Col. Henry Whitehorn of Louisiana State Police said, “We’re pleased that citizens are returning to the metro area during this time of rebuilding.
“However, the personal safety of motorists and the structural safety of the bridge are paramount. We are working closely with DOTD to ensure that the public strictly adheres to weight and speed limits.”
The TESS reported issuing 75 citations along the northshore bridge approach from Feb. 26 through March 10 for various truck violations, including for speeding and hauling overweight loads. State Police Troop L also reported that for the same period in the same area, another 32 citations were issued for traffic violations, including speeding.
The westbound span of the bridge between New Orleans and Slidell, reopened on Jan. 6, was repaired after Hurricane Katrina with Acrow prefabricated bridge sections of hot-dipped galvanized steel inserted into two sections to form two lanes at 24 feet wide.
A special traffic management plan had included a lower speed limit of 50 mph for cars and 40 mph for trucks on the westbound side, with lane changes prohibited on the approach and crossing the panels, compared with 60 mph on the eastbound side. However, effective next week, the maximum speed on the westbound side will be posted at 45 mph.
Both the eastbound and westbound spans are closed to all oversize and overweight permit loads. The weight limit for 18-wheelers is 80,000 pounds. For permitted loads beyond 80,000 pounds, the alternate route is Interstate 55.
DOTD’s contractor had been making westbound walking inspections Monday through Thursday, boat inspections Friday through Sunday and limiting traffic to one lane periodically to tighten and replace panels bolts.
“Speeding and overweight trucks are the reason we’re doing so many inspections and have a need for so much maintenance,” said Brian Buckel, construction engineer for District 2 (New Orleans area).
While periodic inspections and bolt-tightening are part of the maintenance contract, “Traffic, especially overweight, speeding 18-wheelers, is causing the department to perform additional inspections and maintenance to ensure public safety,” Buckel said.
“We are finding loose deck bolts, which we expected, and sheared deck bolts and cracked welds, which we did not expect. Heavy weights and speeding are causing the shearing and cracks.”
Gill Gautreau, DOTD project manager, said he knows the single lane is inconvenient, and DOTD and the contractor are trying to minimize disruptions.
“These inspections are far preferable to Florida’s situation on their older Acrow bridge on I-10, where they have to keep alternate lanes closed to make daily repairs,” Gautreau added.
Gautreau said the bridge is still performing well and is safe for travel. And he urged motorists to help keep it that way by driving no faster than the recommended speed limit.
The traffic management plan for the repaired “twin-span” bridge also includes 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.
DOTD also is in the process of installing electronic speed-limit boards to remind motorists of the lower speed and show them their personal speeds.