NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Long-awaited safety improvements to the Causeway bridge are slated to begin Tuesday (Aug. 28), and many are concerned about what that could mean for their commute.
Ask anyone who travels across the Causeway every day and they’ll tell you about the traffic and the safety concerns it creates.
On Monday a barge moved equipment and supplies to drive the first test pilings into place. As the first phase of a major safety improvement project, Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou says this is a long time in the making.
“It’s literally groundbreaking, or in this case, breaking the water,” said Dufrechou.
The test pilings are the first phase in constructing 12 emergency pull-over areas along the bridge: Six along the northbound, and six along the southbound.
“Hallelujah,” said Dufrechou. “These are the most significant safety improvements with the Causeway since the second span was completed in 1969. It will tremendously increase emergency stopping area on the bridge and enhance the safety of the rails on the southbound bridge. We’re getting into the 21st century.”
The emergency areas could be open to drivers as early as spring of 2019.
Another aspect of the safety improvement project concerns what material the higher guardrails will be made of. Causeway officials say they’ve decided the fiberglass and stainless-steel material just wouldn’t last as long as they needed it to.
“It’ll be steel,” said Dufrechou. “We have a 60-year-old bridge now that has 60-year-old steel in some areas and is still very robust.”
Dufrechou says the project shouldn’t create any lane closures during the day for drivers, but it could cause some nighttime closures. But reducing lanes in the name of safety is something drivers say they can get behind.