04 November 2008

Our collapse continues.

NOLA.com - I-10 East at the high rise could remain closed overnight

Imagine you're driving outbound on the High Rise during rush hour. Normally, that's stressing enough. The bridge is indeed very high, substandard, and steep, a relic of the design standards of the turn of the decade into the 60's. I've climbed easier mountain grades on US 50 in Colorado. As such, your car would hate you already.

However, tonight the bridge itself made the experience more difficult. You see, an expansion joint just popped up, shredding tires and oil pans alike for those unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle lane.

According to an initial report from the NOPD, it sounded like the "finger-joints" of the bridge, which connect concrete segments of the roadway to allow expansion/contraction when the temperature changes, failed when some bolts broke off.

The High Rise isn't the only substandard bridge in southern Louisiana, both from an Interstate-standard standpoint and a structural one. We have many. The Calcasieu River bridge in Lake Charles is the most startling example - a bridge built in 1952 to originally accommodate US 90. It carries four narrow lanes and no shoulders. It, like the High Rise, is very steep. I'll admit, trying to drive over it frightens me.

The Pearl River bridge on the other end of the state is similarly narrow and substandard, with only two lanes in each direction climbing high across the Pearl. Again, there are no shoulders. It's another bridge that scares me to even attempt to drive across.

The Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish, carrying US 90, is at least seeing rehabilitation and upgrades now, but one bridge being fixed isn't enough. In a strong enough wind, you could actually feel the bridge sway. The Huey P. Long bridge in Baton Rouge, carrying US 190, is no better, although it doesn't tend to sway that I've noticed.

We all know about the trouble with the Twin Spans already, so let's pass on trashing them. Besides, they're actually being replaced, a rarity here. Pity it took a hurricane to get their asses in gear on that.

The Causeway, on the other hand, is fair game. 23.8 miles, two lanes each way. Although it has crossovers, you had best pray your vehicle can survive the trip without breaking or running out of gas. There's no shoulders along the entire stretch, so if you can't make a crossover, you're stuck in the middle of traffic. There's talk of adding a third span or widening the existing ones, but right now it's just talk.

The point is, there are a lot of these bridges around here in piss-poor shape, or just too outmoded for today's traffic and design standards. Something happened on the High-Rise today, but it won't be long before something else happens on another bridge around here. People will most certainly die... and only then will we start taking it seriously and doing something about it.

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