BATON ROUGE, La. – Deteriorating concrete on the Grand Ecore Bridge over the Red River in Natchitoches Parish has forced the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to ban heavy vehicles from crossing the bridge.
DOTD posted the bridge at a 10-ton limit for two-axle vehicles and a 15-ton limit for combination vehicles. Engineers determined the deck cannot withstand sustained traffic from heavy vehicles, including tractor-trailers, and posted the weight limits to keep the bridge open until DOTD can replace the deck. DOTD engineers plan to meet with federal officials on Monday to determine the quickest way to replace the bridge deck while adhering to all environmental and permitting regulations. Meanwhile, DOTD also is working with a consultant to design the replacement deck.
The 49-year-old concrete bridge handles about 8,000 vehicles a day, including dozens of tractor-trailers that make daily trips to and from the Port of Natchitoches. Those trucks and other heavy vehicles will have to cross the Red River in Coushatta, about 30 miles north of the Grand Ecore Bridge. Detailed alternate route directions are included below this release.
"This department is committed to public safety. I understand that posting weight limits poses an additional burden on those industries that depend on this crossing, but our top priority is the safety of our citizens," said DOTD Secretary William D. Ankner, Ph.D. "If we allow heavy vehicles to cross the bridge, the deck will deteriorate to the point that we will have to close it to all traffic, which will cause a true emergency throughout Natchitoches Parish."
"Unfortunately, this situation is certain to occur many more times throughout Louisiana as we work to reverse years of neglecting the maintenance of our bridges. My pledge as secretary is to do everything I can to ensure our bridges are safe, and I will not hesitate to put weight limits on bridges or close bridges that are not safe."
DOTD has contacted the Port of Natchitoches, state and local officials, and industry groups to make them aware of the weight posting. DOTD also has given the information to Louisiana State Police, the agency responsible for enforcing weight limits on bridges.
Detour for two-axle vehicles over 10 tons and combination vehicles over 15 tons:
To get to the port from west side of the Red River:
Take I-49 to La. 174 (exit 155)
Travel east on La. 174 to La. 1 north
Take U.S. 84 east and cross the Red River at Coushatta
Take U.S. 71/84 south to Clarence
Take U.S. 84 east to the port
To travel back to the west side of the Red River when leaving the port:
At Clarence, take U.S. 71/84 north to Coushatta
Take U.S. 84 west across the Red River
Take La. 1 south to La. 174 west back to I-49