One of the biggest and most ambitious projects in the Greater New Orleans area–and in fact the state of Louisiana–is now complete. The $1.2 billion Huey P. Long Mississippi River Bridge Widening project has been officially finished and the upgraded bridge given over to public use in an elaborate ceremony that involved local and state officials, as well as members of the public, including some who were present at the inauguration of the bridge in 1935.
Started in 2006, the four-phase project was upgraded and expanded under the motto: “Preserving the past. Embracing the present. Building the future.” Phase I of the new construction debuted in spring 2006 and stretched into mid-2009. It involved the widening of the bridge support structure–four river piers and one land pier–to support additional lanes. It was executed by Massman Construction Co. Phase II, executed by Boh Bros. Construction Co., debuted in summer 2006 and included the modification of railroad supports to facilitate new approaches. It was completed in mid-2007. Phase III, also carried out by Massman Construction Co., along with Traylor Brothers Inc. and IHI Inc., involved widening the trusses on both sides of the bridge to allow for new road lanes and shoulders. Phase III was completed in early 2012.
Summer 2008 brought the debut of Phase IV, with contractors Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., Massman Construction Co. and Traylor Brothers Inc. The longest phase of the development included expanding the two existing nine-foot lanes on the main bridge to three 11-foot lanes per direction, as well as the addition of eight-foot outside shoulders and two-foot inside shoulders. New approach roadways and structures were added on both the east and west bank, while U.S. 90 traffic at Jefferson Highway and Bridge City Avenue was relocated to an elevated structure. Traffic circles at both Bridge City Ave. and Jefferson Highway were replaced with signalized intersections, as was the Jefferson Highway overpass. All-in-all, the driving surface on Huey P. Long has more than doubled from its previous 18-foot width to 43 feet.
The bridge, the longest railroad bridge in the U.S., is also one of three primary Mississippi River crossings in the Greater New Orleans area and carries 50,000 passengers each day. The widening was initiated to provide travelers and area residents with safer traveling and evacuation conditions to enhance connectivity between the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish, while also boosting economic development, especially in West Bank. In fact, according to a report by The Times-Picayune, the Huey P. Long modernization–paired with the business, education and recreation foundation started in the Avondale area–has opened up for development an estimated 9,000 acres, the last developable land in Jefferson Parish. New development is expected to radiate outwards from Fairfield, a new community containing a business park, school and recreational facilities. High-end residential projects and high-technology and light-industry businesses are expected to be drawn to the area.
The Huey P. Long widening project is part of the TIMED (Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development) Louisiana Program, the single-largest transportation program in the state’s history. Worth $5 billion, the initiative is funded by Act 16, a legislation passed by public vote that introduced a gasoline and special fuels tax of $0.04 cents per gallon, as well as a bond financing program. TIMED includes the widening of 536 miles of state highways to four lanes on 11 transportation corridors, as well as widening and/or construction on three major bridges. Numerous improvements at the port of New Orleans and Louis Armstrong International Airport also fall under the TIMED program.
Image courtesy of Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project’s Facebook page.