JEFFERSON, La. – Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri H. LeBas today announced that the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans will be fully open to drivers on June 16, 2013, approximately four months ahead of schedule.
“We are proud to announce the early and on budget completion of the amazing improvements being made to the Huey P. Long Bridge,” Sec. LeBas said. “Motorists are already experiencing the benefits as they drive on newly opened ramps, overpasses and lanes. In June of this year, you will see the total rebirth of this iconic bridge meaning it will be safer, quicker and easier to get where you need to go.”
Drivers began using two new lanes on the bridge in April 2012 so that the old lanes could be removed and the new lanes expanded to their final width on the bridge. New ramps and overpasses are in use on the East and West Banks. Two additional ramps and overpasses along with the new lanes on the bridge itself will be completed prior to the opening.
The bridge is now in the final phase of a $1.2 billion widening project started in 2006 shortly after Hurricane Katrina. When completed, the bridge will have three 11-foot lanes in each direction with eight-foot outside and two-foot inside shoulders. The driving surfaces will more than double from the original 18-feet wide to 43-feet wide on both sides of the bridge. Additionally, new intersections with traffic signals at Bridge City Avenue and Jefferson Highway are being constructed.
“We are committed to delivering this bridge as promised on June 16, 2013,” said Steve Spohrer Director of Louisiana TIMED Managers, who is managing the joint venture constructing the bridge. “We are proud of the great improvements that have been made and appreciate the patience drivers have displayed as construction has progressed on the bridge.”
Work to be completed on the bridge includes a new overpass of Bridge City Avenue in the East Bank bound direction. It is expected to be completed in the next two months. The final overpass to be completed with be over Jefferson Highway in the West Bank bound direction. It will be finished shortly before the opening date for the entire bridge.
Workers are also busy widening the lanes on the main part of the bridge over the river. Once they are completed, concrete barriers between the lanes currently in use and the newly constructed lanes will be removed. Traffic will be allowed on all lanes following a bridge dedication ceremony on June 16.
The ceremony will begin in the morning of June 16 with a 5K race/walk on the bridge. A ribbon-cutting, entertainment and other festivities will also be part of the celebration of the new, wider bridge.
“The Huey P” was the first Mississippi River Bridge in New Orleans when it opened in 1935. It was the longest railroad bridge in the world for about 15 years. Prior to the bridge being built, railroad cars had to be ferried across the river.
Louisiana Governor Huey P Long was responsible for the addition of driving lanes for automobiles during construction of the bridge, which began in 1932. He provided the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad with $7 million to build the two narrow lanes in each direction. The lanes were adequate for the types of vehicles and limited traffic of the time, but were not wide enough for today’s large trucks and more than 50,000 vehicles per day.
A five-minute video telling the story of the Huey P Long Bridge is available at www.youtube.com/hueypbridgewidening. For more information go to www.hueypbridge.com or follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.