The Chamber of Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) recently released recommendations for their I-10 Bridge Task Force for the Calcasieu River Bridge.
These recommendations, which were approved by the Chamber board on Tuesday, provide the state with a well-researched, detailed action plan to tackle the most critical interstate bridge project in Louisiana by a private venture and without incurring debt or using any tax revenue. More importantly, based on the I-10 Task Force’s proposed plan, the new bridge could be completed within three years with the cooperation of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD).
The current I-10 Calcasieu River bridge opened for traffic in 1952 and was designed for a traffic load of 37,000 per day and a 50-year life span. In 2016, the average daily crossings were over 80,000. The National Bridge Registry has rated the bridge a 6.6 out of 100. By comparison, the I-35 West Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., was rated a 50 when it collapsed.
The I-10 Bridge Task Force held meetings with multiple Louisiana state agencies as well as experts in infrastructure financing, design and construction. The group also obtained thousands of pages of material from LADOTD via the Louisiana Freedom of Information Act, and conducted legal and financial research. In addition, members of the Task Force visited communities in differing stages of securing similar bridge infrastructure improvements to learn from their experiences.
As a result of their research, the I-10 Bridge Task Force concluded that the bridge can only be replaced in a reasonable period of time through a public private partnership (P3). The recommendation for the design of the river bridge calls for a new six-lane bridge with shoulders and a pedestrian walkway, located immediately north of, and parallel to, the existing bridge, with ingress and egress at Sampson Street over the railway into the City of Westlake. The current river bridge would remain open while construction of the new bridge takes place and tolls would be reduced for local residents.
The next step is for the I-10 Bridge Task Force and the Chamber SWLA to work with the SWLA legislative delegation to file any necessary legislation in the upcoming session and to ask the LADOTD and the governor to issue a Request for Proposal for private ventures to design, finance, construct, maintain and concession the new Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge by entering into the P3 partnership. The I-10 Bridge Task Force recommends that local contractors and vendors be given priority for service to the private venture. It is hoped that the project will start within the next 18 months.
The I-10 Bridge Task Force concluded that if the bridge is not replaced in the next five years, Southwest Louisiana, the state and the entire country could suffer drastic commercial and strategic consequences, adding that the cost of doing nothing could result in loss of life, devasting traffic congestion, loss of large scale capital investment and distribution delays.
Source: Chamber of Southwest Louisiana