Elmwood, La. - John Young remembers his first white-knuckled ride across the Huey P. Long Bridge.
"I was at the top of the bridge, stuck in traffic, dead stop, a train was coming over and you could literally feel the bridge moving," Young says. "Very unnerving experience."
Now, drivers will have a different experience as they cross the Huey P.
The Department of Transportation and Development officially opened the new bridge Sunday, completing an eight-year, $1.2 billion expansion project.
The celebration began Sunday with a race from the West Bank to Elmwood.
"We were the first people to ever run across it so if you think about, this bridge has been open for what, almost 90 years now," says runner Seth Yost. "It's pretty cool to say that I was one of the first people that ran across the brand new bridge."
A second-line led the way as spectators got a close look at the improvements.
Workers widened both sides of the narrow bridge, which some driver's education classes used a final test before students could earn their license.
"Before, it was two lanes, 18-feet wide, the lanes were like eight and a half feet in width, so it was a pretty daunting experience to cross this bridge," says DOTD Secretary Sherri Lebas. "Now with three lanes, we have 11-foot lanes, eight foot shoulders, so it's going to be a much more comfortable ride for motorists as they cross this bridge."
Lebas says more than 50,000 cars travel the bridge everyday.
Local leaders hope completion of the Huey P. will encourage more growth on the West Bank side. It's some of the last remaining undeveloped land in Jefferson Parish.
"We've already had 65,000 new square feet of retail space in Elmwood in anticipation of today and I think you're going to see an explosion of growth and development on the West Bank with the opening of this bridge," says Young.
With a toot of the horn, antique cars chugged up the new span, celebrating the past and heralding the future of Jefferson Parish.
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