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The I-10 Bridge: It’s Worse Than You Think

Flickr.com
Flickr.com

Officially known as the WWII Memorial Bridge, the I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River is unofficially known as a public menace. It looms over the river, defiantly standing against all odds. Literally.

Built in 1952, the 64-year-old bridge has seen us go from no space program, to landing on the moon, to launching a global communications infrastructure. It’s older than John Malkovich, Hulk Hogan, and Cornel West. It was around before we had cell phones, personal computers, and just about everything else we take for granted in 2016. Heck, it’s even older than the McDonald’s Corporation and all of the Kardashians.

It might still be standing, but we all know it’s not safe. In fact, if you Google “Calcasieu River Bridge sufficiency rating”, you’ll pull up a lot of hits related to an article from Travel and Leisure magazine that listed the I-10 bridge as one of the most unsafe in the nation.

But the funny thing is that the article is from 2013. If you follow the data back to its source – the National Bridge Inventory Database – things are a little different now.

They’re worse.

Much worse.

Back when the Travel and Leisure article went up, the NBI gave the Calcasieu River Bridge a sufficiency rating of 9.9%. Out of 100.

If any of our kids brought home a test with a 9.9% score, we probably wouldn’t be very happy. I’m not sure why we’re okay with a bridge that over 72,000 cars cross every day having that low of a score.

But wait! There’s more.

According to the NBI today (May 2016), the bridge has a sufficiency rating of 0.66 (on a 0-10 scale) which you can check out here.

As a percent of 100, its official rating is 6.6%.

Kristian Bland
Kristian Bland

This is all while the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development says not to worry. Everything’s fine. Those are just numbers, anyway. Nobody likes math, right? Just keep on using the bridge. It’s cool.

Except it’s not. The NBI says the structurally deficient bridge is “basically intolerable, requiring high priority of corrective action”.

Yeah, no duh.

  • The deck is in Serious Condition
  • The superstructure is in Serious Condition
  • The substructure is in Serious Condition
  • The bridge railings, despite the cool crossed flintlock pistols that adorn them, do not meet currently acceptable standards
  • The transitions do not meet currently acceptable standards
  • The approach guardrail does not meet currently acceptable standards

The ends on the approach guardrails do meet currently acceptable standards, though. So there’s that.

Was the bridge scary back in 2013? Yep.

Is it even scarier now? YES!

Is anything being done to prevent a national tragedy? No, not really. But don’t worry!

Did you know that there are over 140 deficient bridges in Calcasieu Parish alone? Forty of them are structurally deficient while another 102 are functionally obsolete, so at least the I-10 Bridge is in good company. I guess.

And, while the I-10 bridge sits with a 6.6% sufficiency rating that continues to get worse, the 210 bridge is set to receive a multimillion dollar rehabilitation project any day now (although they keep pushing it back), even though it already has a sufficiency rating of nearly 74%. So there’s that.

There is a movement called In For 10 that has a petition you can go sign, along with the 1,526 other people who’ve bothered to click the button since the petition went live back in January 2016. Their goal is 10,000 signatures, which I guess will instantly deploy a crack squadron of magical bridge-healing fairies to get the ailing structure in tip-top shape when the goal is met. Or maybe it won’t do anything. I dunno, I’m not actually an authority on mythical bridge building creatures.

While I applaud their efforts, it’s sad that the call to action falls on the people who depend upon the state to provide safe roadways. You know, instead of depending on the state to do its job.

Fix the bridge, Louisiana. Or, better yet, build a new one.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Please?

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