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Causeway GM thrilled with rail testing underway


High-intensity, high-impact crash tests are underway to determine the best approach to keep Causeway Bridge drivers safe. Bridge General Manager Carlton Dufrechou says he's incredibly pleased with the results so far and can't wait to get the finished product on the bridge.

Going 62 mph, the windows and headlights smash on the sedan being tested once it slams into a concrete railing - but it doesn't go over.

“From everything I'm hearing, American innovation is doing doggone good. This thing is doing very well,” Dufrechou said.

On Monday, a pickup truck was put to the test. It too survived flipping over the railing, which if the simulation were real life, would've meant plunging into Lake Pontchartrain.

Just three weeks ago, David Zapot was killed when he lost control of his SUV and went over the side of the bridge. A few weeks before that, Edward Burton was killed in a chain-reaction accident that sent his construction vehicle into the water. The wrecks highlight the dangers of the southbound lanes where the railings are lower and most of the accidents have been happening. “Any loss is too many and we've had six over boards in the past two years,” Dufrechou commented.

At Texas A & M, researchers created a replica of the Causeway's current barrier rail system. Then, they added 12 inches to see if higher railings did the trick. Sure enough, even a 20,000 pound truck was saved from going over.

People who frequently travel on the bridge say they've witnessed firsthand some close calls. Commuter Kim Breazeale explains, “I watched a man go railing to railing on the bridge and went up on the side you know, so it does scare me so I really pray that they get it right.”

Breazeale says she would pay more in tolls to help fund the multi-million dollar project. While funding is still up in the air, Carlton Dufrechou says he hopes to have some sort of final recommendation by January 14th. But from what he's seen so far, this system would improve safety across the board. “This could be used not only on the Causeway but on any 20th century bridge,” Dufrechou said.

More tests will be conducted later this week to try out even higher railings. But Dufrechou thinks the 12 inch extenders, should be enough to keep drivers safe.

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