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Battle of the Bridges: I-10 vs I-210 [UPDATE]

kjmhedit
kjmhedit

AUGUST 17, 2016 UPDATE: Back in January, the I-210 bridge rehabilitation project was set to go out to bid in March, with construction starting this summer. Then summer rolled around, and the bidding process was moved to August, while construction was pushed back to early 2017. However, according to the District 7 operations engineer for the state DOTD, Don Duberville, the project won’t go out to bid until October.

 

JUNE 1, 2016: On a scale of 0-10, the World War II Memorial Bridge (what normal people call the I-10 Bridge) has a sufficiency rating of less than 1. Rated at 0.66 out of 10, the bridge is “basically intolerable”, with the deck, superstructure, and substructure all listed as being in serious condition. The current status of the bridge is “structurally deficient”.

However, the Department of Transportation and Development says everything’s fine. In an interview with KPLC, the DOTD district administrator, Todd Landry, said, “The bridge is not going to fall down; if it were dangerous we would close the bridge.”

Which is probably why, according to KPLC, building a new I-10 Bridge is just a “dream” that isn’t “realistic” enough to warrant doing anything about it any time soon. Instead, the DOTD is going to spruce up the I-210 Bridge first because reasons.

Last year, the DOTD announced plans for a proposed I-210 Bridge rehabilitation project that will involve replacing the main span bridge deck, installing modern railings and roadway lighting, along with adding a safety inspection walkway under the bridge. The rehabilitation project was scheduled to begin later this summer before being pushed back to the fall, will take at least two years to complete, and is expected to cost an estimated $20-30 million, give or take a few million dollars more than I’ll ever see in my lifetime.

That all sounds pretty great for the I-210 Bridge, which is officially known as the Israel LaFleur Bridge for people who pay attention to that sort of thing. I’m just glad they’re doing something about it, because I’m sure this bridge is in a lot worse shape than the I-10 Bridge. I mean, why else would they be fixing it first?

Let’s take a quick glance at the NBI’s ratings for the I-210 Bridge, just to put your mind at ease.

  • The deck is in satisfactory condition
  • The superstructure is in satisfactory condition
  • The substructure is in good condition
  • The bridge railings meet currently acceptable standards
  • The transitions meet currently acceptable standards
  • The approach guardrail meets currently acceptable standards

Hey. Wait a minute. It sounds like the I-210 Bridge is actually in pretty good shape. What gives? Maybe its sufficiency rating is super low, even though the DOTD says that rating “…really has nothing to do with the safety of the bridge”.

The I-210 Bridge has a sufficiency rating of 73.9%, or 7.39 out of 10.

Wait. What? The I-210 Bridge is pretty much the exact opposite of the I-10 Bridge in every way. It has a good rating, and all of its elements are satisfactory. If its sufficiency rating was its score on a Social Studies test, it would pass. Meanwhile, the I-10 Bridge would be repeating 4th grade for the umpteenth time because it’s been busy eating paste and licking its shoes instead of paying attention in class for the past forever.

Let’s recap, just so we’re clear. We have a more heavily-used bridge with a sufficiency rating of 6.6%, but it’s not getting fixed until after the one that carries less traffic and has a much better rating of 73.9%.

Something doesn’t add up here.

The I-10 Bridge is part of the main traffic artery for the Gulf Coast, and carries over 72,000 vehicles across it every day. In contrast, the 210 Loop only carries around 42,000 vehicles each day. The I-10 Bridge has almost double the traffic and is in much, much worse shape than the I-210 Bridge, but we’re fixing the good one first?

This is Bizarro World logic.

Maybe it’s because I’m new here and don’t understand how things work, but it seems to me like you’d want to fix the worse bridge before the better one, especially when the better one is actually in pretty decent condition. Sure, it could use some lights and maybe a shoulder – but so could the I-10 Bridge.

Maybe the powers-that-be are worried that, unless they enhance it now, the I-210 Bridge won’t be able to handle the increased traffic being diverted from Interstate 10 whenever they finally get around to working on I-10’s bridge, which I guess kind of makes sense. After all, if you’re going to put more stress on the bridge, then getting it ready to handle the increased traffic probably isn’t a bad idea.

Then again, won’t traffic on 210 get diverted to I-10 while the I-210 Bridge is being worked on? If the I-210 Bridge – which in in satisfactory condition and has a 73.9% sufficiency rating – needs to be fixed up before it can handle I-10’s traffic, then how will the I-10 Bridge possibly be able to handle the stress of taking on 210’s?

Metaphors involving straw and the backs of camels come to mind…

The last time the I-10 Bridge received any major work was in 2011, as part of a $5.7 million repair project that ended in 2012. Just one year later, the bridge’s sufficiency rating was only 9.9% in 2013, which has fallen to 6.6% in just three years. It’s losing roughly 1% of its already poor rating per year. Can we really afford to spend $20-30 million and at least two years waiting on a perfectly serviceable bridge to be upgraded before the ailing I-10 Bridge gets some attention? At its current rate of decline, it might not even still be here by then.

The In For 10 campaign to rebuild the I-10 Bridge is up to over 1,100 signatures now. Maybe you should swing by and give it a click, because it’s looking more and more like this grassroots effort is the only thing that might be able to make something good happen.

Before something bad happens.

Of course, maybe the decision to fix up the I-210 Bridge first has less to do with public safety and more to do with something I’ve written about before, which seems to be a theme in Lake Charles: Development dollars pour into the South side of town, while the North end is left to make do with what it has.

I wonder why that is?

Granted, this might not be the case, but it certainly seems like it. I don’t think you could paint a clearer picture of this area’s priorities than choosing to enhance an entirely acceptable bridge on one side of town while ignoring and waving away the very real problems of an increasingly deficient bridge on the other.

In a perfect world, we’d have two great bridges: one for the interstate, and one for the loop. But I guess we don’t live in a perfect world.

Or even a fair one.

Read More: The I-10 Bridge: It's Worse Than You Think

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