Emergency repairs finished on Intracoastal Bridge; both southbound lanes open for evening commute
UPDATE: DOTD says emergency repairs have been completed a week earlier than initially anticipated.
Both southbound lanes will be opened in time for this afternoon’s "peak traffic," the department said.
While the emergency repairs are now complete, the joint repairs that were taking place before the girder was damaged will continue, and motorists can expect nighttime lane closures.
Motorists can expect nightly lane closures on the northbound side of the bridge from Monday, April 1 to Friday, April 5. These closures will take place between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. each night. The northbound side will also be reduced to one lane on Saturday, April 6 at 7 p.m. until Monday, April 8 at 4 a.m.
BATON ROUGE – Pending unforeseen issues, La. 1 lane closures that have prompted catastrophic traffic on I-10 over the last week or so could be a thing of the past next week.
DOTD said the contractor making emergency repairs to a damaged part of the Intracoastal Bridge is ahead of schedule.
The bridge was hit by a dump truck on March 19, resulting in one of the southbound lanes being closed. Reducing the two-lane bridge to one lane siphoned a major north-south thoroughfare on the westside, backing up exiting traffic onto the interstate.
Tuesday and Wednesday, traffic stretched for miles into Baton Rouge and snaked toward Ascension Parish. Authorities in West Baton Rouge said a day-long traffic jam Tuesday was the worst ever.
"[Tuesday] was the worst in my 26 years here at the sheriffs office; I've been through all the major holidays, I've been through hurricane evacuations and that was by far the worst I've ever seen traffic," Ken Albarez of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office said.
But, late Wednesday, DOTD revealed a piece of good news – the month-long lane closure could end early.
Heat straightening to fix a dented girder could wrap sooner, allowing both lanes to open during peak travel times as early as April 4th.
“I understand that the traffic has been unacceptable, and crashes yesterday morning and in the afternoon only made the congestion even worse,” DOTD secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Wilson used the opportunity to spin the discussion to the need for more infrastructure projects.
“The real solution is finding a way to fund the reconstruction of this bridge,” Wilson said.
The state has long debated how it could afford any major improvements to bridge or highway expansion and repairs.
To combat the extended traffic issues, DOTD also said Wednesday it was making changes to the Plaquemine ferry crossing to try to give drivers an alternative.
“...We’re doing everything we can to give drivers as many options as possible to cross the Mississippi River,” Wilson said.
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