Starting Sept. 12, residents crossing the Hale Boggs Bridge will be met with a slower speed limit and possible lane closures as the state begins work to replace all of the bridge’s cables.
There is also the remote possibility of a full bridge closure, according to Alan Weber, the project manager with the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The $32 million project will replace the 72 cables that support the Hale Boggs Bridge. The project became a priority after corrosion was found in the cables during inspections.
In 2001, the bridge received a 7 out of a possible 9 rating from the Federal Highway Commission, which indicated that it was in good condition. In 2007, that rating had dropped to a 3 due to the effects of weather on the cables. Replacing the cables then became a top priority.
The job will involve installing a replacement cable next to an existing cable, applying tension, then removing the old cable, Weber said.
Because of that, each cable will be replaced one at a time.
The new cables are made of individually wrapped strands of wire that are more resistant to corrosion than those currently on the bridge. The new cables are designed to last 50 years, while the current cables have a life span of 25 years.
Bridge work is expected to last from 14 to 16 months and all four lanes will remain open for most of that period, Weber said.
During off-peak hours though, one of the lanes could be closed. Full bridge closure would only occur if the job’s contractor, Kiewit Louisiana, was lifting a piece of heavy machinery and didn’t want to take unnecessary chances by having traffic underneath.
“But a full closure is something that they are going to try to avoid,” Weber said.
The speed limit on the bridge will be reduced to 60 miles per hour during the work period, and when working on each side of the bridge, two 11-foot lanes will allow traffic to flow. Barriers will be placed and the remaining area will be used for construction.
Contractors will first replace cables on the East Bank side of the bridge and work will last seven to eight months. Contractors will then move to the West Bank side.
Parish spokeswoman Renee Simpson said that all safety precautions are being taken and that mats and platforms will be installed to catch falling debris. Tow trucks will also be stationed on both sides of the river.
The Hale Boggs Bridge was first opened to traffic in 1983.