Engineers test Causeway Bridge concrete integrity, potential new traffic railings

Researchers hope to make the Causeway Bridge safer with stronger materials. (FOX8 Photo)
Researchers hope to make the Causeway Bridge safer with stronger materials. (FOX8 Photo)

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Engineers tested the integrity of the Causeway Bridge foundation by applying enough force to crack a piece of the southbound concrete siding on a ramp below the bridge.

Wednesday's test will help Texas A&M Transportation Institute engineers decide what type of new barrier will best prevent trucks and cars from crashing over the side of the southbound bridge.

With one of the test mounts on top, the concrete cracked under 27,000 pounds of force.

The possible new traffic rail would go on top of the existing concrete. Causeway Commission General Manager Carlton Dufrechou said, when crashes have happened, cars have driven up over the concrete and through the pedestrian handrail, so the new rail will be designed to prevent that from happening

"When a vehicle hits it, we obviously don't want to see any defamation or damage to the rail. We want to see the vehicle contained and redirected," said William Williams with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The test showed that the existing concrete would break under pressure before the particular mount, which Dufrechou said is a great sign.

"The new rail design, this indicates, is actually more robust and stronger than the existing concrete barriers, and they have never failed in any crashes we've had in the 50-plus years of the causeway," Dufrechou said.

Dufrechou said down the line, it will eventually be up to commuters to decide if they would like to pay for the safety upgrades. However, for now the question is which mount would be best.

Engineers from Texas A&M Transportation Institute tested three types of mounts and took into account safety, cost and ease of installation.

"So, we're trying to make the design economical and we're trying to optimize the post strength yet make it easy to fabricate and install," Williams said.

"(It is) all about bringing the bridge into the 21st century," Dufrechou said. "The Causeway is going to be 58 years old next month. Structurally, it's a very sound, strong, strong bridge, but what we're trying to do is actually make it as safe as possible for all of our motorists."

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